My Path to Publication

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I was recently told that I’ve never actually shared a lot of my history as a writer. Which is funny and now seems obvious. With this in mind, I thought it might be fun to share my path to publication.

The INITIUM series, the series getting published, is actually the second series I’ve written (well, third, if you count daily micro-stories following the same character for a year and a half I stared when I was 12). I finished the first book in this first series, a story about an orphan dragon, the summer I was 14. I ripped apart and put back together that manuscript so many times… and talk about using every bad-writing trope in existence. Black and white villains, endless passages explaining everything, narrative that went on forever, preaching about this issue or that issue.

Anyway. The INITIUM series started as a concept in my head a little after I finished that first book in the dragon series.

It took me until I was 19 to actually get that first book in the INITIUM series down, and it was so much better because of it. This is mostly because I was in college and had no time, but it allowed me to really process the lessons I learned from writing the dragon story and try out what I’d learned. For example, the explaining everything overmuch problem I had with the dragon story? Yeah, no. I drag out questions for DAYS in the INITIUM series. I thought about and re-wrote the beginning of Fairian’s first story so many times, the original concepts are the same only in name and vague direction.

I started querying for agents with my dragon series around 18. I really only got form rejections or silence as a response, a frustration I’m sure you’ve all experienced. As I was finishing up INITIUM, and learning a lot more about what was marketable, I realized that it was probably a fruitless adventure to try to launch my author career with my dragon story. It had too many common tropes and similarities. While it may be publishable eventually, it wasn’t something I could start with.

Again, though, I learned a lot from starting querying with my dragon story, from how to write a query letter to researching agents. It set me up in a much better place to start querying for Fairian’s story.

The queries began. The form rejections and silences followed. A few agents did answer, rejecting it based off of those personal things you can’t predict — not connecting with the world, not sure the plot fit into the other authors she represented, etc. Disheartening for sure, but all the comments I did receive complimented me on my voice, my style, and my characters. That helped a lot.

I went to the Willamette Writer’s Conference in 2015, where I learned a TON, and got to pitch my story directly to agents and editors. With help, I managed to hone my pitch into something reasonably good. I also switched my pitch last minute to a woman who seemed to be looking for something a lot closer to what I was writing — though, it turned out she was an editor to a small publisher based in Portland, not an agent.

Despite being nervous as hell, my pitch went well. Way better than I expected. I could tell she was tired listening to all the authors pelting her with information all day (I was in the afternoon, and with 15 minutes a pitch, switched out like clockwork, for 8 hours — you do the math), but I was respectful and she seemed to perk up at the story. She said my novel sounded interesting, and like it would fit into their repertoire. Excited, I sent off three chapters the following week (after getting it reviewed a few more times by the friends I’d just met at the conference).

Commence… waiting. Meanwhile, I make my eyes bleed doing research on the publisher, small publishers in general, the dangers to look out for, how an author becomes successful with small publishing, etc. There were a few things that bugged me — this particular publisher’s website was non-professional, and held a few of the ‘warning’ signs that articles like this talk about (fantastic article, you should read it).

Three months later with no word, I gently nudged and asked about my submission. She profusely apologized and said they’d been having a few technical issues, that she didn’t think she got my email, and to submit through their new submitting service. Starting a feel a little weird about it, I did it anyway.

Meanwhile, I started entering Twitter contests, like #PitMad and #P2P. Similar response as querying before. Mostly form rejections, a few compliments here and there. I opened my horizons to small publishers, since I was getting more comfortable with the idea. Got a few strange rejections from that process.

In one of these contests, another editor at the same publishing house as before asked for a submission. I mentioned it was already in their queue, and gave the title and details when she asked.

Then, via another Twitter contest, I heard from Carrie from Glass House Press. She was really interested in my pitch, and wanted pages. Within 24 hours, she wanted the whole manuscript, along with all my social media information, and my plans for marketing.

This publisher checked out a lot better than the other one. Much more professional website and online presence, no big problems in Writers Beware, and I got a good feeling from the emails with the editor.

Commence… more waiting.

I’m pretty sure I started the third INITIUM book during this time, entered more contests, met awesome writer friends all striving for the same goal. I wrote blog posts, tried to ignore the excitement/dread feeling in my gut, stared at my manuscript and agonized over it’s faults.

I kind of forgot I’d submitted to that first publisher — it had been around 6 months at that point, and I was pretty sure I was going to reject an offer if they gave it anyway. I received a note through their submission website to go ahead and submit the full manuscript. They mentioned in the notes that it would take at least a year to get back to me. I didn’t go forward with that — between my funny feelings and the YEAR response for a small publisher, it just didn’t sound like a good fit for me.

It was shortly after that I entered a mentoring contest, where I met a ton of really neat people. I had a ton of fun interacting, guessing which tweets were about my own, finding a new friends. Then, shockingly — I was chosen as one of the mentees.

An hour later, Glass House Press sent an email saying they’d like to offer me a contract.

Nothing, for years, and then two great surprises at once. I talked it over with the editor, explaining that I’d been selected for the mentorship and I’d hate to miss out (not just because of the agents at the end, but because of the networking, lessons, general fun) and she said she had no problem with waiting for me. So, I accepted the mentorship, had a blast, didn’t get really any bites from the agents who signed on to look at the finished project of the contests, and then contacted the publisher back.

She reviewed the manuscript again in it’s changed form — taking a few months — and then offered me a contract.

I was very nervous about this part. I didn’t have an agent to back me up, there are many horror stories on the internet about the whole thing, etc. I reviewed it carefully — reading up on every publishing clause in existence, religiously reading any articles from experts in the field — read it over with my father who works with contracts (of another kind) all the time, with one of his business friends who works with sports-publishing contracts. Not the same, obviously, but I had a few intelligent minds look it over who weren’t in omg-a-publisher-wants-me euphoria. I requested a few clarification sentences, changed a few words, and…

Violà. I signed a contract with Glass House Press.

You’d expect what followed would be furious conversation, edits, and a game plan moving forward. It was a bit anti-climatic, to be honest. With developmental edits, she wanted to start working with a thorough outline. So after I sent that to her, while she worked through it, I collaborated with the social media manager, building a game plan, focusing certain aspects (my Instagram is not longer just about goats!), and building a few up from scratch (actually starting a FaceBook author page…).

After a while, developmental edits began… which is a whole new subject. I’ve started chronicling the whole behind-the-scenes-in-being-published thing, which starts with this blog post here. (Feel free to check it out if you’re interested!)

And that, writer-friends, is the first leg in my publishing journey.

I’m pretty excited about the next steps. I really feel like I can move forward now as an author, carving out a path for myself with books and everything else. Despite being noticed, being published traditioning, the hungry, notice-me feeling isn’t gone. Neither is the fear of failure or not being good or not knowing enough. There are so many other steps going forward, so many other mileposts. But I like that there’s always the next goal post. I like that ‘getting published’ isn’t the end, or some gate that once you walk through it’s all smooth going. It’s a challenge, an on-going opportunity.

It’s all an adventure, and I’m exhilarated to make it happen.

 

P.S. Oh yeah, that first small publisher that was interested in my manuscript? I’ve since learned they’re legit, and not trying to scam anyone. But I still don’t think it’d be a good fit for me. The benefit of a small publisher is that you get more attention and more say on your book, at the cost of the power and prestige of a big publisher. For me personally I didn’t like how they treated authors, their public image, and I got the feeling I wouldn’t get the attention that’s kinda the point of a small publisher.


Published: Behind the Scenes (March 2017 edition)

Published- Behind The Scenes.pngIn October of last year I signed a contract with Glass House Press for my alternate-history fantasy series to debut in 2018. For fun and for the benefit of anyone interested, I started up this blog series chronicling monthly updates of the behind-the-scenes in being published. Read the introductory post here! A list of all the other posts I’ve written so far can also be found at the end.

In my previous post, I got in-depth about developmental editing and progress with that. This post, I’m going to have a little less to talk about, because as mentioned before, I’m writing a prequel to my series. So what’s primarily happening behind the scenes? Lots of writing. Which, hey, we’re all doing, that isn’t anything new. This entry is going to end up a little diary-like.

The basic reason for the need of this prequel is that my world is very complex, and a lot to jam into a first chapter. Additionally, my first book arguably starts out too far into my character’s arc. My editor thinks there too much for the reader to catch up on and takes away from getting the reader into the story. It can easily be too confusing, with all the cultural terms along with hints about character and world history I’m throwing about.

I personally think it’s fun to have a bit of mystery about the character and world to drive the story… but I can’t be sure I’ve created enough of a reason for the reader to care about Fairian and hang around for getting answers.

(So we’ll see how that all works out when we get to the editing of the actual writing and how the story works out bit, but meanwhile — )

I’ve been assigned to writing the prequel. Which is unfortunately slow going, as I haven’t really written anything (fiction) on ‘contract’ before, so I’m discovering the jarring difference between writing for oneself and writing for someone else. There are many author-ly laments on all platforms of social media about this problem, so I don’t feel like I need to go into it here. Needless to say the experience will be good practice.

Despite the reasons for actually making the prequel happen, I am discovering my love for the story. The events in the prequel I’ve always treated as past history, as influencing ‘current’ events and seen through the lens of the present. Writing the prequel as present, in the eyes of my main character that’s 5 years younger… well, that’s pretty interesting. And hard. A lot of the characteristics that make up Fairian (my main character) have developed in part because of The Events in the prequel, so they’re not in place in her personality yet. But I can’t have her a completely different person. So I have to plant the seeds of her later personality, then have The Events, and then show the start of her personality change.

This is surprisingly hard. Mostly in the sense that Fairian is kind of a spoiled, naive brat at this point in time, and I’m kind of wondering how to make her even likable. I read an article the other day that mentioned something like this, but emphasized that (in the beginning of a story at least) you need to make your characters interesting before likable, worry about likability later. That, I’m pretty sure I can do.

One of my editors suggestions for clarifying my giant world for readers while still keeping mystery for my characters was to write from another point of view. I struggled with this for a little while because this is really Fairian’s story, and I have a weird complex with keeping things mysterious and throwing questions around like confetti. But, I found a happy medium. Inter-spliced between chapters from Fairian’s perspective are reports from … basically this world’s version of the magical CIA.

So in essence, I get to write Incident Reports and Correspondence of global magical clandestine operations in an alternate reality.

Just reading that I get excited.

(Now just to make sure they end up being exciting as they sound, ha!)

Camp NaNoWriMo hit just in time to help complete this thing. It’s going to be a novella (I think anyway…) so less words to write, but unfortunately I’m being so nitpicky about the craft and details it’s getting in the way of getting words down. I’m re-remembering to just get the words down and worry about editing later. Thus, Camp NaNoWriMo is helpful as the kick in the pants I need. I want to have this thing done by the end of April. I’ve written 50k in NaNoWriMo several times before; getting out 30k more should be just fine as long as I stay focused.

Speaking of focused. I need to turn my attention to writing all those words! This whole weekend ended up being “manual labor weekend” with barn cleaning and house building, and before that I was flat on my back as a migraine reminded me I’ve been messing with my sleep schedule a little too much (excuses, excuses). I need to get back at it. I still don’t feel fully recovered, but maybe the fuzzy-headedness will help just get the words out and not have a complex over all the details…

Thanks for reading, friends! Stay tuned for April’s update in a few weeks; this post ended up being a little late for a variety of reasons, next time’s should be on time. Let me know what you think, share experiences, feel free to commiserate …

Happy writing!


My Winter – as told by goats

All right, so we’re going to stray from the usual writing topic for this post. Partially because I’m not sure what to write about here, and partially because I want to.

As many people around North America are experiencing, spring time is here. (Except not in Oregon apparently, because we got freaking SNOW just earlier this month.) I thought I’d display my winter, as according to goat pictures… You’re going to be subjected to many pictures of goats. Goats in the winter. Goats in snow. Baby goats. Goat noses. I’m pretty sure you’ll survive the torture.

If you follow me on Instagram, many of these pictures many be familiar — but never in a fun story and all together like this!

Let’s start with a moment from Fall.

Three of my goats traveled to my parent’s house during the summer to clear some of their brush. As the weather turned, they came home. And it was a little comical. First, we had Phe and Duchess, who wanted to drive.

And then there was their expressions when they arrived…

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What… where have we been taken to!?

Phe and Blackberry immediately got into a fight, as they were herd bosses in their respective herds, and they had to work out who was herd boss of the overall herd now.

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They eventually figured out there differences and everyone loved each other again.

Now let’s talk about the holidays. Thanksgiving I ended up spoiling them. Look at this masterpiece of edibles I created for them. Apples, two kinds of grain, vitamins sprinkled on top…

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The boys were a little lost on how to eat the apples, but everyone else pretty much thought they’d died and gone to goat heaven.

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When Christmas came around, we (the humans) were a bit more selfish. We decided to drag all the goats out to my parent’s house Christmas Eve, so we could spend the night and not worry about having to run back home to feed them. I have many sides of the family, so the holidays become pretty hectic bouncing from house to house. Moving the goats made it so we didn’t have to run back to our house as well.

(Goat Brains: torn between eating the food
— and staring at the world as it sped by them)

They weren’t too happy about their small temporary enclosure, but they sure did like the walks that the whole family took them on for the days we were there. Things to eat EVERYWHERE. My parents definitely enjoyed their company, and my extended family was eager to meet the ladies I talk about so much…

(Sari is very concerned I’m leaving in the loud metal machine)

Not long after that, the first snow hit. I’m pretty sure that the goats have never seen snow before… or at the very least, never seen that much snow, where it actually stuck around. It’s too bad WordPress doesn’t support video files; I have a fantastic video of them racing back and forth with me once they figured out it didn’t hurt them.

No one wanted to leave the barn, but I kicked a few goat butts outside one day to make them get exercise. Needless to say, they weren’t really happy with me (Sari stood there pathetically while trying to only stand on two feet at the time).

And they had NO idea what to do with all the white cold stuff at their feet…

(Goat brain: Do we eat it??)

A month or so later, Beltane and Inanna became old enough to need to establish their hierarchy in the herd with each other, so that was a big day. (Note mom in the background making sure it doesn’t go too far.) I’m still not entirely sure who won. I think Beltane (the black one) did. Again — I also have a very funny video of Beltane playing king of the hill and refusing to let her sister get up on the brick mountain with her…

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And now that we’re halfway through MARCH, the sun occasionally does come out to grant us with it’s presence. The goats won’t step outside if there’s a hint of rain, so it’s a pretty big deal when the sky is clear.

It’s pretty great to go outside with them and read, too.

My summers are peppered with memories of napping out in the sun with the goats (who will lay with/on me and nap too), so besides the obvious I’M SICK OF THE RAIN, I’m pretty excited for summer to get here. I also can get a decent amount of writing done when I go outside with a laptop and watch them graze. They are fairly distracting when they try to jump on me and the computer of course… but that’s another story.

And don’t worry, I won’t blog TOO much about goats. Though, I’m pretty sure I’m going to post something when Sari and Blackberry kid (early May!), so look forward to pictures of brand new babies in not too long here…

Until then, toodles! I hope this was fun and entertaining for you all. Feel free to comment and share!

 


Published: Behind The Scenes (Feb 2017)

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Welcome to the February 2017 edition of Published: Behind the Scenes, where I talk about all the fun things that happen to get my book on the shelf.

If you missed the introduction post or the post from January, they can be found here and here.

Without further ado, see below!

February has been a rush (and I was all worried I’d have nothing much to share!). I got my first professional edit letter from my publisher. You know, ever. Which is a huge thing to begin with anyway, but then on top of that, it was developmental edits, which I have zilch experience with.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had developmental edits done with a professional editor, but I was surprised to realize that most of the work is done almost entirely from the outline. From the outline, the plot, stakes, and connections between scenes are all assessed to make sure that they all forwarded the plot and they’re not just a bunch of loosely connected points.

Which, in theory, seems straightforward.

(Why does it always so seem straightforward on paper or after the fact…)

The biggest complication to this whole process was that my outline was very unclear. Most of my themes and points were too vague or seemed unconnected, because I wasn’t writing out how they were connected or the details which made it relevant, which made it difficult to, you know, assess all of that. On top of that, since there’s a bit of a mystery element in the novel, I’d definitely not explained everything.

I know you’ve probably all heard this person, but seriously, don’t be mysterious when talking to your editor. Tell all the secrets. Get your point across. I didn’t even realize the things I hadn’t shared because I’m so used to them being secrets for books later on — but you need to tell your editor!

But overall, there was some definite face-palming on my end as I realized yet again… I hadn’t explained that… which was why everybody was so confused. I’ve always used outlines just as a general structure, and a way to jog my memory and keep me on path. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually written a detailed outline like what is actually called for in this situation.

But anyway.

The first run through of my outline mostly involved my editor and I getting on the same page of understanding. On top of everything else, I’ve been playing a little loose with the rules and structure of storytelling, so she gave me a crash course in understanding the basics.

To which I was like — but yeah I’m this AMAZING thing where I break the rules. Haaaa. Yeah right.

The biggest worry at the beginning is that there doesn’t seem to be enough at stake. I was relying on the intrigue of the world and all the questions I pose to drive the start… but that’s probably not going to be enough. There needs to be tension, a sort of deadline — not necessarily the world ending, you know, but something.

So, more stuff in the beginning, tension-related stuff. Which seems so simple and straightforward and I don’t know why I didn’t get that before. Probably because I was so focused on how cool I was using mystery and questions to drive parts of the plot.

So, the somewhat counterintuitive conclusion that came out of this: I need to write more. My 109k word novel needs more words.

To continue with the theme of my not explaining enough, my editor also thinks I started the book too far into my main character’s arc. The initial trigger, or catalyst, to make her this answers-driven rebellious intelligent fiend, is something that’s learned as the book progresses, but isn’t known from the beginning. My editor is concerned there’s too much explanation that needs to be written in the first chapter because of this. Mostly because I created a really complex world.

To which I’m like: but… but… I like my subtle hinting and clues for all the answers! (which isn’t a good enought answer, in case you were wondering)

But anyway. The result of all of this, is that I’m writing a prequel novella.

This prequel will show how my protagonist got to where she is in my first book: all the themes and important points that had to come together to form her after the catalyst of her sister’s death. It’s also going to introduce the world, taking the pressure off the first book to get everyone on the same page within the first chapter. We’re working through the outline of that as well (hey, I’m learning how to be a plotter and write from an outline!), and I should be starting actual writing on it in the next few weeks.

Some part of me feels the prequel is redundant, that everything is already said in the first book, at least mentioned if not explained. But I’m also discovering (well, building) a story that’s a lot bigger than what I’d initially had in my head, and it’s giving me time to build the world out with more clarity.

If this prequel definitely happens, it’s going to be weird releasing it first versus the actual book. I’m definitely having anxiety it won’t be interesting enough, that releasing a novella first instead of a full length novel as my first book ever is bizarre. But that’s probably just anxiety about releasing anything anyway.

For fun, I’d like to share the progress that my outline has gone through so far. Just to provide a little context to what I’m talking about.

This is the first chapter in the outline originally:

Chapter One:

The book begins with Fairian sneaking out of the house. It’s obvious she’s waiting for something, and she gets attacked, and then saved by Daimyn. Excited by the new lead, Fairian asks questions. He warily answers before warning her off coming out at night, and eventually knocking her out in an attempt to scare her.

As you can tell, there’s not much there. It made perfect sense to me, because I have all the themes and connections in my head. And here’s what it is now:

Chapter One

Fairian sneaks out of the house to find a creature – now that she’s in the new city of Farfalla, which is swamped in intrigue and mystery, she thinks she may have luck getting answers about her sister’s death. Mixed with descriptions of the city, there are brief mentions of backstory that give a glimpse into world structure, family life, and how long she’s been on this quest.

She gets attacked by a strigoi, and ‘saved’ by a mysterious man. While she’s peeved about the loss of the strigoi, she realizes that this man knows something, and asks questions. He warily answers a few questions before warning her off her search and eventually knocking her out in an attempt to scare her.

I imagine the first chapter will go through further edits, but for now, it’s clearer. I’m itching to get into the actual content of the first chapter instead of just talking about the content… but clarifying on what the chapter needs to be is helpful, I will admit.

After the first chapter, there’s some change to the plot itself. Because the second chapter needs to further tension and get the plot going with a goal (my original goal not quite ‘big’ enough), the original chapter two was too slow. This is besides the fact that the outline was, again, not nearly clear enough in what aspects, tensions, and themes are being developed out at that point.

So here’s the second chapter initially:

Chapter Two:

Fairian wakes up in her own bed, her maid announcing her new martial arts teacher was arriving. She meets Mr. Kearney and he agrees to teach her. Afterwards, her best friend Tiffany and her decide to go shopping: this reveals more about Farfallan history and make-up, and Fairian mentions more on the Environmental crisis.

How does that even explain anything? Seriously, it seems so obvious now that this outline is NOT clear enough.

Now, alongside clarification, there’s a new aspect to drive the plot forward:

Chapter Two

Fairian wakes up in her own bed, and decides the Mr. Mysterious from last night must know things, and she’s going to track him down and beat the answers out of him if she has to. She interviews with Mr. Kearney, a local martial artist, who agrees with teach her. It becomes obvious she’s been taking defense lessons for a while, in response to wanting to be able to protect herself. While it seems her father is reluctantly supportive of this, her mother makes it obvious that it was a BIG battle to even have an interview – and she’s upset about Fairian’s new instructor, thinking the move to Farfalla would end that ‘unladylike hobby.’

At lunch Fairian sees an article in the newspaper that reminds her of what happened when Fairian and her sister were taken. Her mother nitpicks at Fairian’s clothes, posture, attitude, etc (probably exacerbated because of losing the battle about the martial arts instructor) until in frustration Fairian agrees to go shopping for clothes appropriate to this part of the world — privately thinking she can sneak away and track down more information about the news article she saw. Their family ward and her best friend, Tiffany, comes along with. The drive to the market gives a glimpse into some environmental history and Farfallan culture.

Putting up with her mother’s ministrations for only a while, Tiff and Fairian manage to sneak away and head to the Central Library to search the news of the past few years. She finds out that many people have had strange psychological breaks where they supposedly saw their nightmares come to life, and they’re all sent to the same mental hospital. Starkly reminded of her past, Fairian sets getting into the hospital as her next objective.

As you can see, that was a heck of a lot clearer. Also, the issue with the people stalked by their nightmares and the mental hospital was originally a plot point much further in the book. Since a more pressing goal was needed to get the plot moving more quickly (beyond finding out who the mysterious character is in the first chapter), I moved it up and changed it around a bit. So far I feel pretty happy with it.

I’m having brief struggles with feeling possessive over my story and like it might be being changed too much. But, I will admit, finding my own ways to fix whatever problem is there has been a tad fun. And seeing improvements in my manuscript has been neat.

It’s a balance, between sticking true to the story you want to tell and letting more knowledgable people guide you on what needs to be changed. It’s definitely been tense and a little nerve-wracking as my baby is being pulled apart and put back together, but good overall.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Have any of you gone through developmental edits like this? What was your experience?


A Bit of Magic Found

The other day at work, a guy came in to work with legit multi-colored eyes. One was a pale, pale blue, and the other not-quite halved between whisky-gold and dark brown. It was kind of hard to keep up polite conversation because his eyes were so striking.

On the other hand, I could only imagine how many times a day people stared at him, so I figured, hey, having a normal conversation might be a relief, so I ignored it and kept to being bright and perky (life in customer service, you know).

What surprised me most about the encounter was how very similar it was to the cheesy descriptions of encountering amazing eyes found in books. You really notice, the world kinda halting for a second.

Of course, that might have just been my writer brain trying to figure out the exact words to describe it later.

And no, my romance novelist friends, it wasn’t like that. It was more along the lines of … here was a bit of magic. Maybe reality was more interesting than thought. What was his story?

Also, before y’all start turning this into a YA meet-cute, let me remind you the guy was probably 45 and I’m 23 (which is a reminder, maybe, that the guys with cool eyes do grow up).

Anyway, I felt like sharing because it felt like I’d found a tiny bit of the magic we’re usually writing into our books.

So thanks, random guy, for coming into my work while I was there and making my afternoon pretty cool.


What Does YOUR story mean?

 

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I’ve always struggled — in most of my professional writing career, after the blissful stage where I only wrote for myself — with making my writing and stories mean something. Maybe it was the crap influences in my childhood who told me that ‘just writing fantasy’ was fine and all that, but eventually I needed to write things that actually meant something. It can’t just be that though, because I’ve always felt a drive to write more than just a story.

Maybe all of this is just all my insecurity and doubt coming home to roost.

It’s the plight of most writers to feel this way. I read somewhere that, at the very least, writer’s write to entertain. But most of us write to try to inform, educate, inspire, engage. So I’m hope to God pretty sure that I’m really not alone in all of my what-do-I-mean angst.

I can’t help but think of this in the light of current world events. Well, USA events, but it’s affecting the whole world, so yeah.

Meaning: I want my books to make people think when they’re out there. I want to inspire and engage and teach. Yes, I’ll always write stories, because I’m one of those ‘if I don’t write it out it just plagues me forever’ writers. But I want to go above and beyond that. I want it all to mean something.

I get a little hung up on how exactly to go about doing that. The first example that jumps to mind is the Orson Scott Card route, of exploring deeply philosophical questions about humanity and morality through science fiction. He does a lot of telling-not-showing, and it seems like he had these deeply moral issues in the back of his head as he wrote the story. Whereas I get characters yelling at me and write them so they’ll be quiet.

So I guess what I’m really struggling with is a way to take my innate character-yelling and transform it. The story comes out, sure, but it’s still just a story. What is the step between characters and plot coming together and then… making it more?

It’s probably the opposite of that. That the meaning to be explored should be taken first — and then add the characters and plot. But how do I do that? Seriously – I want someone to give me a flow chart on how to do this, because I feel like I missed something along the way.

I want to write about environmental issues and the reality of how this relates to economics — so I’ve built solarpunk into my world. But is it really teaching someone anything, or exploring how a world like this works? … I’m afraid it’s not enough.

I have strong belonging, friendship, and what it means to be human themes especially in my current series, but I’m not sure it’s so obvious. I get lost in the plot and the interactions of the characters, and sometimes I think that takes away from the fact that I wrote these two people with the idea that they’re lonely and different… and in each other they find not only a place to belong, but start affecting the world around them for the better.

I don’t feel that it’s enough.

(Maybe I’m just not smart enough — or smart in ‘that’ way? I want to interview Card and figure out his method… and when he feels like he’s really got it.)

I think all of this can be put in the category of learning to take a first draft and make it a second draft — something that, with growing horror, I’m realizing that maybe I haven’t ever done before. I’m going through developmental edits with a professional editor for the first time and getting a crash course in things I didn’t even know were a thing (upcoming blog post on that later! It’s a little nerve-wracking and kinda feels like the floor has been taken out from under my feet).

Of course, who really knows — because an artist’s plight is never feeling like something is ever ‘done.’ It can always be better. There can always be more. Despite knowing this, I still feel that I’m missing some sort of intrinsic lesson on how to get from my A to my B. For all I know I’ll get an epiphany tomorrow and suddenly realize how it works, or I’ll read an article that connects it all — or the most likely outcome, my editor will prod me into understanding what to do.

But for now, I’m definitely feeling a little worthless and like I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’d love to move this discussion out to you, dear readers.

Do you worry that your story doesn’t ‘mean’ enough, especially in light of current events? How do you give meaning to your story? Do you start with the world, the characters, the lesson you’re imparting? If you’re a character writer like me, how do you keep yourself from getting carried away in their interactions? How to you keep yourself from being off subject/too preachy?

 


Published: Behind the Scenes (Jan 2017)

 

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Yeesh, writing “2017” is still weird. But anyway. Welcome to the first segment of my new series, where I talk about the behind-the-scenes action of being published!

So in October 2016 I signed the contract to sell my Initium series to Glass House Press. Pretty much the very first thing that happened:

“Let’s look at your author platform!”

How did I know this was going to happen? Oh right, the entire writing world tells you about it. So, things started happening, like social media calendars, starting up a FaceBook author page (which I don’t hate as much as I thought — hey, if you want to like it and follow my updates more in detail, here it is), and discussing how many pictures of my freaking goats I post on Instagram (heheh).

The past couple months have been about setting goals and thinking about branding as a whole. The holidays took up a lot of time and headspace, so that was mostly easy, fun stuff. When 2017 hit, it was time to get serious (<– I almost wrote that ‘series’, ha!). Anyway. *cracks knuckles*

The part I’m struggling with the most is finding and actually utilizing my ‘keywords’ in a natural way. The whole point of social media as an author is to be able to connect with potential readers, to find them and make connections before the actual book comes out. So if you want the right people to connect with you, who are interested in the concepts/themes in your story… you have to effectively find/attract them through keywords.

So while I can tweet/post indefinitely like #fantasy #alternatehistory #strongwomen #solarpunk etc etc etc — I definitely feel that it’s the bare minimum of what to do, and there has to be a better way to do it. It needs to feel natural, not like I’m awkwardly waving off in the corner and nobody really knows what I’m doing there.

Do I know the answer to that yet? Not really.

(Though I am having a lot of fun finding really cool pictures to post on Instagram. Seriously, I feel like a image hoarder right now.)

Another aspect of it — as you probably know — is that you want people to make connections to you as a writer. They’ll hopefully want to buy your book when it arrives, but that’s not the point. You’re supposed to make connections and build relationships as your primary goal.

So there’s this balance between ‘keywords my book is about’ (AKA finding the right people) and ‘being naturally you’ (being genuine so people don’t think you’re a robot). I’d like to say I’m pretty good at that last part, and am working to incorporate the first part… but we’ll see.

 

As for what’s happening with the actual manuscript… the first thing to tackle is developmental editing. Basically, my editor wants to make sure that the whole series fits together and is pushed to it’s best possible potential. Big picture stuff. Does-what-happens-in-book-four-make-sense-with-what-happens-in-book-two. Etc.

I haven’t gotten the letter with developmental edits yet, because my editor has been slammed getting authors ready with books coming out here shortly. But we have been talking informally about basics.

Liiiiiiike — big reveals that happen in book four must be foreshadowed in the previous books if it’s a big freaking plot hole. If it’s a plot hole that’s supposed to be there, you’ve got to let the reader know YOU know it’s supposed to be there.

Which, apparently, I did well with Fairian’s whole obsession with finding secrets. I reveal to there readers that HEY LOOK THERE’S SOMETHING REALLY WRONG WITH GEOGRAPHY I KNOW IT’S WRONG JUST BEAR WITH ME without giving them answers. And then drag out allllll the secrets for several books…

Eh-hem. It’s good to know I did that part right, because the waiting in strangling anticipation for the edits letter is only killing me slowly. I am so ready to tackle to this thing and turn it into an even better beauteous creation of awesome.

So. Moral of the story: publishing really does take a long time, for various reasons. Use the time to beef up your author platform. And meanwhile, write more books!

I feel like there should be a lot more to tell, but that’s all I can think of for now. It ought to get more exciting as things progress; stayed tuned for the end of February update!

 

Happy writing,

R. K. Brainerd