There are many measures of success, especially in writing. Readers may look at whether or not an author has made any of the best seller lists. Authors may look at the number of books published, or number of sales, or even positive reviews. For rising authors, who are trying to get a foot in the door, like me, finding a publisher willing to publish even one of your books may be all that is required to consider yourself a successful. That’s where I’m at right now, as I just signed a contract for my western novel Delilah. But the point is, that success is subjective and there are many different levels involved.
You can see what I mean. My little contract for Delilah wouldn’t be a big deal for someone like Stephen King or Anne Rice, who sell books faster than they can write them, but for little old me, it’s a very big deal, even though it isn’t with one of the big five major publishers and there is no advance that comes with it. Although those things would be nice, signing with my small independent publisher, Dusty Saddles, makes me feel plenty successful.
What’s great too, is that it doesn’t end there, because of those different levels I was talking about. Sure, I feel successful now, with book contract in hand. But, I also have a feeling of success when I check my blog stats and discover that my readers are increasing. I feel it every time one of my poems, or short stories is published. I felt it when I earned my M.F.A. in Creative Writing. I’ve no doubt I’ll feel it again if Delilah starts selling copies and I find people are reading it, or when the next book contract comes along, or if I sell a screenplay.
Success is what we, as writers, all strive for, although your definition of success may be just finishing the book. That was my definition while I was earning my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, but after completing two novels, working on both simultaneously, I know I can finish a book, so I’ve moved on to the next challenge. Selling the book, and now it looks like I have achieved that success, as well.
But we have to be careful not to want that success so bad that we allow ourselves to be taken. There are a lot of scammers out there, who will try to steal your book right out from under you. Although I was excited about being offered a contract, I didn’t just jump into heart first, but used my head and went over it with a magnifying glass, being on the look out for all the fine print. I questioned different clauses and negotiated on any that didn’t serve my best interests, until the publisher and I came to an agreement that was fair and served both our interests. Although having a knowledgeable attorney or agent look over all contracts is always recommended, as a striving artist, I had no access to that type of professionals, but I did have someone knowledgeable in the business look it over. He confirmed that I was reading it correctly and helped my identify a couple of problems with it. Fortunately, none of them were deal breakers and the publisher was willing to be flexible.
Now, I’m ready to embark on a new publishing adventure and looking forward to in anticipation. Signing the contract holds a certain level of success for me, but the next level of success may be just over the hill, so I must press forward. My readers can help by buying the book, because the ultimate goal for me is for people to read what I write, (and the money from the book sales will be nice, too). Of course, I’ll keep you updated as to when it will be out. After all, I strive to create Writing to be Read.
How do you measure your success?
Want to know more about Delilah? Visit my Delilah Facebook Page
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While Book 1: The Great Primordial Battle is spending time with my alpha reader, I’ve been busy working on Book 2: In the Beginning. Now I know it seems strange name for a second book, but for this series, it’s actually quite fitting.
You see, Book 1 covers the time just before and after the Atlans arrival on Earth in prehistoric times, which result in a great battle between the Atlans and the monstrous creatures created by the angry Tiamat, Oldest of Old Ones. It is the story of how the Atlans came to be on Earth.
Book 2, on the other hand, takes place during Earth’s earliest civilizations. It explores Biblical times and even before, as well as visiting ancient Egypt and Minoan cultures. It looks at the beginning of time, hence the title, In the Beginning.
That said, I’ve finished the first draft for Book 2, and started on revisions. I guess maybe my writing process is a little weird. At Western, while earning my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, we talked a lot about our writing processes, and while everyone’s processes were different, I never found anyone whose process was like mine.
My first drafts are pretty rough, consisting mostly of the basic plotline. The basics of what happens in each chapter, so the way the story moves forward can be seen. Once, I have that down, I can go back and revise, adding description and action that helps the story move in each chapter, sharpening the image, hopefully, for readers. That’s where I am in the revision process now.
Before I send it off to my alpha readers, I’ll do another run through to check for repetition, spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, and eliminate unnecessary words. This is the pass that tightens up my writing to make it the best it can be before going to the alpha readers have a go at it.
Once I have it back with their comments, I may do up to three or four more passes, before I feel it’s ready to submit to publishers or agents. If all goes well, I will get Book 1 back from my alpha reader, which in this case may be a beta reader since I made revisions to the completed work after sending it out without raising any interest, about the time I have the final draft of Book 2 ready to send out for her scrutiny.
I think the main problem, possibly with both books right now, is a lack of emotion from my characters, which could result in a lack of emotional investment from readers. Identifying it as such is good, because if readers don’t care about the characters, they won’t continue reading. The challenge will be finding a way to fix it, so my readers will keep turning the pages. Fortunately, I found some great ideas for showing my characters’ emotions in a post titled Emotion vs. Feeling by David Cobett on Writer Unboxed.
The story is there. Now I just need to breathe life into it. That’s what writers do.
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Last week, I received a rejection letter for Delilah from a publishing house I submitted to back in October. Although I know it sounds odd, I was elated. “Why?” you may be asking, and with good reason. Rejections are not something writers are usually pleased about. In fact, just the opposite. But I was pleased with this rejection letter for one reason. It was not a form letter. In fact, the editor took the time not only to read the sample I submitted, but to give me constructive criticism and suggestions as to how the manuscript might be improved.
As a graduate student, my professors drilled the idea into our heads that a personal rejection letter, means your manuscript made it past the slush pile and actually received some attention from the editor. It was good enough that they actually read what you sent. And a rejection letter with personal feedback is even better, because then you don’t have to wonder why they rejected your work, and you can strive to fix anything that needs fixing before sending it out again.
My rejection letter was personal, rather than form, and it offered feedback. How sweet is that? I mean, I’m not happy the book was rejected, but I am happy that somebody read at least part of it, in this case, the first fifty pages. My reaction to this rejection is to study the personal feedback and then really look at the manuscript to determine the validity of the comments. Then revise and resubmit to the next publisher on my list for Delilah.
For those not familiar with me or my writing, Delilah is my 60,000 word western novel about a strong willed young woman, who served two years in the Colorado Territorial Prison, in the late 1880s. Delilah thought that time had hardened her against the cruelties of the world, but she wasn’t prepared for the trip back home and the hardships of the Colorado frontier. She heads to her home in San Luis, with sixteen year old, Sarah. An encounter with two outlaws, who take the girl captive, sets Delilah on a journey into the high country of Colorado mining towns. Along the way she faces wild animals, outlaws and Indians, makes colorful friends, and learns to love again. Delilah is a novel with the true flavor of the Colorado frontier.
A while back, I also had a hybrid publisher, who expressed interest, but wanted me to provide other western authors that would be interested in publishing with them. (To get a better idea of what I’m talking about when I say hybrid publishing, see my article, Hybrid Publishers – What are they all about?). I posted in a few places on Facebook, but did not come up with any other interested authors.
So, this is actually the second personal, (non-form) letter that I’ve received on Delilah. Of course, it would have been better if I had received an acceptance letter, but I believe in myself, I believe in my writing, and I know that one day, that acceptance letter will come. And, if not, I am not beyond the idea of publishing her myself, because I know she is that good.
To learn more about and read updates on Delilah, go to my Delilah Facebook page.
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If you read my post, Rethinking the Playground for the Gods series… again, then you know I’m currently working on Book 2: In the Beginning in my Playground for the Gods series. In the past two weeks, I’ve increased the word count on this novel by about 10,000 words, and updated my character chart, where I keep track of who did what in each book. I view this as being not too shabby. But, as I’m revising and adding to my partial draft, I’m noticing how much of this series revolves around sex of some sort.
In my post, It’s All in Finding the Right Market, I took a look at different markets for my Playground for the Gods series besides the science fantasy market I’ve been promoting it in. In particular, I considered both YA and NA markets, as potential market venues for this series. I dismissed both after looking back over Book 1: The Great Primordial Battle, and determining that there was too much emphasis on sex for either of these markets. After attempting to revise the book for either of these two markets would totally upturn too many story premises.
To understand why sex is such an intricate part of this epic science fantasy series, it is necessary to understand what the series is. Playground for the Gods is based on an alternate universe in which the gods of ancient civilizations were really aliens from a far galaxy whose home planet had been destroyed. The characters are those of ancient gods and goddesses and they play out their own versions of some of the myths of the ancient world, adding their own unique adventures into the mix.
The thing that I’m noticing as I research the mythologies and write my story, is that there is a lot of sex involved in many of the ancient myths. And, sex is so intricately interwoven into them that to try and tell the tales with the sex extrapolated leaves tales that have lost much of their meaning.
For instance, I’ve been working on the part of the story in Book 2 which is based on the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris. If you know the myth, then you know that after Set chops up Osiris, Isis gathers all the pieces except one, his phallus, in order to resurrect him. Now, I have to tell you, this scene was extremely fun to write and it turned out to be quite humorous, but it doesn’t work to try and write it without the missing member. Without that, the whole story falls flat and doesn’t even make a lot of sense.
In fact, when trying to trace the lines in most ancient cultures, it seems everyone is related and incest is the norm. In Inuit mythology, Annigan rapes his sister Melina repeatedly. The Sumerian god, Anu raped his own daughter. In Greek mythology, there are same sex relations and even relations with birds or other animals. In Aztec lore, there are goddesses of carnality, sexual hunger, sexual power, sexual desire, sexual longing, sexual appetite and sexual misdeeds.
Ancient mythology is filled with sexual encounters between gods and goddesses, between gods and humans, and even strange fetish type behaviors. To write a story based on any of these myths, one cannot extract the sex and still make the story work.
That’s why I couldn’t justify revising Book 1 to take out the sex and adult language to accommodate a YA or NA audience. While I am the author and I can make my characters do whatever I want, if in doing so, I unravel the fabric that the story is based on in order to appeal to a particular market, I’m not being true to my story or being fair to my readers. When the story doesn’t work, the readers won’t be able to suspend disbelief enough to buy into the story, and that’s not a good thing.
Visit my Playground for the Gods Facebook page for more information and updates about the series.
Labor Day weekend. Many people headed for the mountains or the shore to spend one last long weekend to say goodbye to summer. It’s the last weekend of tourist season. Time to get back to the serious business called life. The kids go back to school and the adults head back to the daily grind of making a living.
Of course, writer’s don’t always get three day weekends or take vacations, because for writers, everything we do is an experience which can be drawn off of and written about.
Every place we visit and everything we do can be written about in some capacity. Every activity can be used in some capacity to fuel our writing habit. It may only be an idea that serves as a seed, which grows into story with so much nurturing. It might be the foundation for a how-to article. It could even be your next travel article.
I started out with gardening how-tos on e-How.com through demand studios. Most writers simply love to write. For me, writing is a way of life, my passion, perhaps even my obsession. When I can’t write, I feel lost, as if I no longer know who I am. This lesson was recently driven home to me when my computer crashed. I was out of a computer for about three weeks before I could get a new one, and in the interim, although I could not get it into a file, I went back to writing long hand. The ideas don’t stop coming just because I have no means to prepare them for publication.
For writers like myself, although life tries to make it about the money when the bills come due, it never really is. For me, writing is a labor of love and I can’t think of a better way to labor right through Labor Day. Can you?
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Everything I’ve ever done in life, I’ve done my own way, usually depending on myself and no one else. One thing anyone who knows me can tell you is I’m persistent. When I set out to achieve something, I don’t stop until I do. It has been no different with writing. But I’m discovering that I need a little help with this endeavor.
I had a bad experience with a student teacher in the English department as an undergrad, so just when I was beginning to learn that I liked writing and maybe English should be my major, I was soured on the whole idea by the feeling that the field was too subjective for me, and I chose to major in psychology instead.
But after I’d been out of college for a few years, I discovered not only that I had a love for the written word, but also that I had some talent for it. I started out writing poetry, which I’ve since learned, is not my strong suit, but even there, I don’t do too bad. I sold my first poem to Dusk & Dawn Magazine in 1996 for $5. Problem was, that didn’t even cover all the postage I had spent submitting, and I couldn’t afford to play the starving artist. I had a family to help support. There were others to consider. So, writing went onto a back burner, just simmering for about twelve years.
Then, I discovered the Internet and rediscovered my abilities for writing as new opportunities presented themselves. The rise of the Web actually changed the entire publishing industry over time, opening up all kinds of new opportunities for writers, including, but not limited to, self-publishing, marketing via social media, vanity presses, and content mills. As blogs and websites grew in number, more content was needed than ever before. Problem was, I’m technologically challenged. Slowly, over time, I have learned to use social media to my advantage a little, and I’ve learned to use many of the writing sites and content mills to make minimal amounts of money.
One of the coolest things happened in my writing endeavors didn’t involve any money at all. I had one of my poems featured in a painting by artist Mitch Barrett and displayed and sold at the Kaleidoscope Gallery in Battlesea Park, London. (There’s a lengthy story behind how this came about, which I may relate in a future blog post. Anyone who knows me is surely tired of hearing it.
As a freelancer, I became the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner for Examiner.com, which didn’t really pay, but offered opportunity to meet other writers, get free books for review and obtain credits for my portfolio. I also cranked out articles for other content mills which did pay, at least a little, which added to my skill set, diversifying my writing talents, and I was published in Freeman, which was a bit more profitable.
I thought I was quite fortunate when I was able to obtain a publisher for one of my children’s stories, Heather Hummingbird Makes a New Friend. After seven wasted years, it turned out I was not so fortunate, since my book still wasn’t published. But we learn from experience.
Still struggling to launch my writing career, I discovered the low residency MFA program for Creative Writing offered by Western State and I applied. Maybe I couldn’t do it on my own, but I would learn what I needed to know, one way or another. And I have learned a lot. I’ve learned about my own writing process. When I started at Western, I’d never even thought about it. I’m not even sure I was aware I had a process, but I did and still do. Now I’m just more aware of it. I learned how to craft my words to be pleasing to the ear. I learned how to read aloud in front of an audience, and I’ve learned that I do it well.
Last summer, I completed my emphasis in genre fiction and read from my thesis novel, Playground for the Gods: Book 1: The Great Primordial Battle. I’ve learned how to treat my writing as a business, at least in theory, although I’m still trying to get it off the ground. And I’ve learned how advances and royalties work, and that you have to sell a lot of books before you will ever receive royalties.
And I learned that screenwriting is where the big money is. When I took genre screenwriting for my out of concentration class, I also learned that it was fun, it came pretty easy to me and I was fairly good at it. So, instead of graduating, I stayed in school for another year to get a second emphasis in screenwriting. What I’m learning this year, is that there’s a lot of competition on screenwriting and it’s tough to get a break. You practically have to live in L.A. to get anywhere. Yet, I am determined to make all the money I now owe for my schooling pay off. I haven’t given up yet, and I don’t intend to now.
I’m currently shopping my thesis novel and two of my children’s stories, five short stories, and various poems. I’ve also finished my western novel, Delilah. At Western, thanks to my instructor, Russell Davis drawing us out of our comfort zones, (and maintaining as much discomfort for us as possible), I discovered that I enjoy writing in the western genre, and although it is not one of the bestselling markets, I do it well. I’ve also published a western flash fiction story, I Had to Do It, on Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry.
I’m working hard, through this blog and social media, to build a writer’s platform and gain a following to make myself look more appealing to agents and publishers. Here’s where you, my readers come in, because you can help. Without my readers, my writing just sits there on the page, not doing much of anything. You are my writer’s platform. You are my following.
Many people don’t realize that liking a link on Facebook, while cool, doesn’t really help the author grow their platform unless they actually read the post and subscribe by email. What does help, is if you’ll take the time to read the post here, on my Writing to be Read site, and subscribe to the blog. That’s what shows how large my reader following is, and it does my heart good to watch as it grows.
You can also like the post below it, with all the “share” buttons, but you must have a WordPress account. If you don’t have one, you can sign up for one, but then, of course, you will have a blog to maintain, so be sure you know what you’re getting into. I’m guessing that many people just like the link on Facebook to show their support, but they don’t actually click on the link and read the post. But, if you leave a comment, I’ll be able to tell that you read it, and if you subscribe, it will show you liked what you read. You’ll make my day.
If you’d like to show even more support, you can buy my short science fiction story, Last Call. If you like it, write a review on Amazon. And, you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pintrest. Help an old writer get a break.
Your support is always appreciated. Thank you for being a reader of my work. After all, for me, it’s not really about money. It’s about Writing to be Read.
I recently sold I Had to Do It, a flash fiction story of the western flavor, to Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. And of course, my regular readers know I’ve written a western novel, Delilah, as well, for which I’m diligently seeking a publisher at present. It might seem that I am leaning toward becoming a western writer, and I’ll admit, I do enjoy writing western.
But I’m an eclectic kind of gal by nature. My palate savors many cuisines, although I’m partial to Oriental and Latino foods. I listen to various genres of music, being heavy on the rock, but also enjoying metal, hip hop, country, pop, and even classical. I watch a wide range of movie genres, as well. On that same note, I read most of the genres, and seek opportunities to try genres that are new to me, but horror has always been my favorite. In fact, in 2012, when I began my M.F.A. in Creative Writing program at Western State Colorado University, western was one of the few genres which I hadn’t read.
In that first class, the first thing my instructor asked was, “In what genre do you usually write?” I considered the short stories I had written to date, many of which, I wasn’t sure what genre they fell into. The only experience I’d had with western was 850 words worth, I Had to Do It, and it hadn’t sold. But the idea was for us to write outside of our comfort zones, and western was the genre I was assigned for my first excerpt.
I’m not sure why I didn’t think I would like writing westerns. I’m a native of Colorado and proud of that, but I’ve never been a cowgirl per se. I enjoy western films. Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns are the best, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Quick and the Dead are right up there, too. But as I said, I hadn’t really read much in the western genre. But then, I wrote the excerpt for Delilah. After that first semester, revising my excerpt according to the feedback from my instructor and my cohorts, I started thinking that I might not be too bad at writing in the western genre. Three years and several rewrites later, Delilah is a story I’m rather proud of. The rejections do sting a bit, but I’m confident that if I endeavor to persevere and keep submitting it, eventually it will land with the right publisher, and it will be accepted. And if not, well, there’s always independent publishing. Delilah is a good story, and it’s well written, and I want very much to be able to share it with the world. One way or another, I will get the book published.
And yes, there will probably be other westerns in my future. I seem to have a knack for it, at least, so I’ve been told. I already have an idea for a western romance, although romance is another genre I never thought I’d find myself writing. I guess we’ll see.