What It’s Like To Get Published

There was a sizing error with the author copies…

Getting one of your pieces published has two sides.

On one hand, there’s the awesomeness: holy shit, someone else thinks that a thing you did is good. And it’s probably not your mom! You are the creator of worlds, motherfucker, and that world is now open for visitors! Stamp your passport and get your shots, because we’re taking a trip into your brain.*

But on the other, far more creepy, hand, there’s the terror: holy shit, something you wrote is now out in the world where other people can read it. And judge it. And write scathing one-star reviews on Amazon. What’s worse: that people hate it…or that they don’t notice it at all?

It’s at this point that most writers retreat into a corner and begin to gibber. It’s okay. It happens to everyone. Try that corner over there, it’s got a nice floor.

But once you unfold from the fetal position, you realize there is a third hand to all this, one that you never considered before you got published: getting published is not the end.

So many writers are focused on the notion of publication that they don’t realize that getting published is just one more stop along the line. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an important stop—not least because someone is giving you money for a thing you made, which is awesome—but it’s not the end. Because after publication comes promotion, and readings, and launches. And of course the next publication, and the next story.

And that’s a good thing. If publication was the end of it, I’d be sad that it was over. Instead, the train keeps right on rolling.

Best thing you can do is enjoy the ride.

Which I am doing right now. I’ve got a story coming out in a new anthology, Flashpoint. You can find out all about it over here, at the IndieGoGo page, as well as check out some of the cool bonus rewards for those who support it. There are copies of the book and ebook, shiny things, events, and other assorted perks for supporting the anthology.

Or, of you want to know more about the anthology and the writers featured therein, check out the blog, which has interviews with the authors. Find out what writers drink! Who’s an outliner! What our superhero powers would be!** My interview will be going up shortly, in which you will find out exactly when I slithered my way into this dimension from my own.

So go check it out. I’ll be updating progress along the publishing ride here as new things happen. Book launches! Readings! Summoning rituals! All the trappings of publication.

And, in the meantime, I’m going to go write something else.

*Watch out for the locals. They bite.

**Spoiler alert: ‘hero’ is not the word for me.

Advertisements

Pie-thulhu Comes For You: Trying New Stuff

This was the closest I could find to Cthulhu Pie.

The other night, Snowman and I had friends over. And while we were having the inevitable Serious Adult Discussions—the differences between robots and mechs, the inadvisability of storing smallpox in your freezer, the likelihood that I have an NSA file somewhere based on my internet searches— the subject of writing advice came up. I, of course, run this blog; my friend Kat, writer and movie critic* from over here, also gets asked by others for her thoughts on writing. I will now recreate our conversation in the name of giving you the most serious, high quality advice I can.

*Fires up the wayback machine*

Me: I think some people want a magic bullet—especially for shit like building an audience and getting published—but it’s really about time and patience. And, you know, not giving off an actual physical stink of desperation.

Kat: And diversifying. Try new stuff.

Me: Yeah, definitely that. It’s way too fucking easy to just get into a rut and only do the stuff you’ve done before.

Kat: You should get your fingers in as many pies as you can. And then make more pies.

Me: And then graft more fingers, until you’re a monstrous pie-finger construct, devouring all in your path, with freeway on-ramps for arms and a heart as black as coal!***

Rest of the Room: (dead silence and mildly worried staring.)

Whether or not you go the finger-pie construct route****, the advice holds: diversify. Break out of your tried-and-true and venture forth into the unknown. Novel writer? Try short stories. Try blogs. Try poetry. Try smearing the powdered dreams of your enemies on the walls of your cell.

And get out of your solitary little writer-cave. Go on social media. Become a commenter on other writing blogs. Join a writing group. Or, my personal favourite, start conversations with other writers on Twitter. I’ve had some great conversations with writers on every step of the road from Just Staring Down The Barrel Of That First Manuscript to Author Of A Goddamn New York Times Best Seller through Twitter. People are more approachable than you think. You know, so long as you’re not a complete douchecanoe about it.

This shift to new venues and new modes of communication does two things. 1) It makes you more versatile and broadens your horizons, not a bad thing at all in a writer. And 2) it gives you that many more possibilities for making money/getting published/getting noticed. More stuff on deck means more stuff to submit, which means better chances of one of those pieces finding a forever home, or at least an Until-The-Rights-Expire home.

And if you can make yourself into a Lovecraftian horror along the way? Hell, who’s not up for that?

*Also baker/librarian/weaponized disease enthusiast. I decided that if she had a Jaeger a la Pacific Rim, it would be Viral Cupcake.**
**Mine would be Caffeine Deathwish.
***With apologies to Futurama.
****Though why wouldn’t you? It sounds awesome.

Strap In And Grab Your Important Bits: Planning Your Year In Writing

Get in, loser.

All right, we’ve talked about ideas and talked about getting excited. Now it’s time to get down to brass tacks. Except we’re dealing with the imagination, so I suppose we should be getting down to…brass dendrites? Brass gut flora? Something brass, anyway. * We need a plan.**

Here is your plan:

1) Define your goal.

2) Figure out the steps along the way.

3) Fucking do it.

I recognize that some clarification may be in order.

Part of your plan is going to depend on your goal. Want to write a novel in 2014? Figure out how long you think it’ll be. If you’ve got no fucking clue, guess. I usually say 100,000 words. Why? It’s a nice round number. And it translates to roughly 400 pages of a paperback book. A good length for fantasy or horror, which is what I tend to write. I’ve written shorter and longer, but this is my benchmark.

Got a length? Good. Now figure out how long you have. Got a year? Then that means you have to write…273.972 words a day. Better round that up to 274, just so you don’t stop mid-noun. Not much, is it? Even assuming that you’ll only write five days a week, that’s only 385 words a day. You can do that. So you do. There we are: plan set. All you have to do is colour it in a little.

But what if your goal isn’t to write something, but to publish? Well, assuming you have a finished manuscript—you do have a finished manuscript, don’t you? If not, finishing that is the first step, so back the fuck up—then start researching places it could find a home. Agents or publishers for a novel, magazines or anthologies for short fiction. Make a list. Write a letter. Start sending. When it gets rejected from one place, move to the next on the list.*** Repeat.

And what if, like yours truly, your goal for the year involves not writing something entirely new, but editing an existing project? It’s not such a clear cut goal then, but it’s still definable. I will come back to this in a later post–actually, I’ll come back to most of these in later posts–but for now, here’s the bare bones: go through the manuscript with a red pen; make a big list of what needs to change****; make a plan for those changes and figure out how long they will take. Good rule of thumb for editing? Unless you are very experienced at it, it will take three times longer than you think. At least. You think you can have the changes written in a month? Budget three. If you get done early, then, hey, happy handshakes and big bottles of booze all around. But budget more time than you think. Trust me.

Making a plan—especially one that you figured out the timetable for, and not one you got out of a book that claims anyone can write a novel in two weeks or can be published in three—keeps you on track. It breaks down the bigger goal—Write A Novel, Get Published, Edit The Unmerciful Fuck Out Of That Story Until It No Longer Resembles A Half-Digested Dictionary—into smaller ones—write 500 words today, send out a query letter today, figure out the end of the first chapter today. It grounds you in reality. Which, for people who work inside their own heads, is not at all a bad thing.

Some caveats:

1) Goals change. It happens. Sometimes you think you’re working toward one thing, but realize halfway through that you’d be better off working on this other thing. It’s cool. Don’t panic. Just re-evaluate. Sticking with something that’s no longer what you want is a waste of time. Just make sure it’s really a change and not just you giving up. I suggest strategic reevaluations at three, six, and nine months. That way, you have enough time to get in there and have a go, but also ample opportunity to make course corrections if they’re required.

2) Don’t forget the all important Step Three. Fucking do it. Or all this talk is just masturbation—might make you feel good but it sure as hell doesn’t accomplish anything. You can abandon plans, you can change goals, you can fling yourself out of the literary airlock and into the great vacuum of I Don’t Know What I’m Doing….as long as you keep moving. Plans are good, steps are good, but at the end of the day, the only part that matters is strapping into the launch seat and putting the pedal to the floor.

Now go forth and conquer.

*I really do think like this. It’s amazing I get anything done.
**If you’ve ever read A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, you know the importance of a good PLN. If you haven’t, go read it.
***This approach assumes no simultaneous submissions, but if your market allows them, then go for it. Just keep a list so you don’t forget what went where.
****Don’t be upset if it says ‘everything’. Mine does.

Ch-ch-changes: 5 Tips For Surviving Editing (with Guest Blogger goodness)

J. Jonah Jameson

Editor may not be exactly as shown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

All right, you little word badgers. I have a special guest for you today. Sherry D. Ramsey is an excellent writer whose debut novel, One’s Aspect To The Sun, was just published by Tyche Books. In addition to that, she’s an editor, putting together several short fiction collections with her collaborators over at Third Person Press.  She’s here to talk about working with an editor, and since she’s got experience on both sides of the table, you’d best listen.

I’ll be handing things over to Sherry now. Be nice to the substitute, or I’ll keep you all after class. *Takes off Shouty Hat and Stompy Boots, hands them over to Guest Blogger, watches you all ominously from behind a pillar.*

5 Tips for Surviving the Editorial Process

 

by Sherry D. Ramsey

The thought of working with an editor—either an editor you’re paying to help you improve your work, or an editor at a publishing house—can be a scary one. What if they hate your story? What if they don’t “get” it? What if they want you to change everything?

Well, having spent time on both sides of the editorial desk, I can tell you: being edited is part of the process, so you might as well get used to it. Or as Bare Knuckle Writer herself might say, Suck it Up, Princess. I rewrote the last third of my new novel, One’s Aspect to the Sun, after getting detailed feedback from my editor at Tyche Books. She told me what she liked about the novel, but also identified problems and weak spots and suggested how I might fix them. Although her advice was invaluable and she helped me find the right ending for my book, not all of her suggestions worked for me as they were. My job was to figure out how to address the issues she identified while keeping what I felt were the important elements of the book intact.
It can be challenging, but working to editorial feedback doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. Here are five tips to make the editorial process easier to confront.

1. The Editor is Your Friend.  A good editor offers a fresh viewpoint and an objective (and usually experienced) eye. The best editor will be your partner—not a dictator—in working through your story’s weak spots with you. It should be a back-and-forth process, the editor offering suggestions and guidance that you interpret and implement in your story. The editor’s job, after all, is to help you make your work better. No editor benefits from making your work worse.

2. The Editor Does Not Want to Ruin Your Story. An editor may have a different “take” on your story or see it going in a direction you hadn’t planned. This doesn’t mean that they are trying to ruin the story or make it theirs. Remember: editors have read a lot of stories, and many of them have been awful. They’ve probably seen every way a story can go wrong, and they want to help you avoid those pitfalls. Their ideas are usually worth considering.

3. Not All Editors are Created Equal. Not every editor is going to be the right one to work on your story or book. If an editor would like you to change everything except the main character—they’re probably not the right editor for this project. Likewise if they offer only vague comments with no real guidance, direction, or explanations. The right editor will clearly identify problems and weak spots and maybe even make suggestions for changes. Just remember: if they make personal comments about you as a writer, run the other way, and take your story with you.

4. The Writer Isn’t Always Right. Suppose your knee-jerk reaction to the editor’s suggestions is “No way!” Okay, throw your hissy fit while no-one’s watching. Then calm down, sit down, and consider what the editor has said, and why. It’s entirely possible that your story has some serious problems, and the way you wanted it to go is not the best way to tell the story. You might be wrong. Accept it, then see what you can do about it. Taking editorial suggestion is often about compromise, and you can’t compromise if you think you can’t make a mistake.

5. You Always Have A Choice. Editorial suggestions are just that: suggestions. Really don’t like them? Walk away. No-one is forcing you to make these changes. Just be sure you’re walking away because you actually fear for the integrity of your story, and not because your ego doesn’t want to be bruised. Writers who don’t need editors are extremely rare, if they exist at all. Are you completely certain you’re one of them?

Want more of Sherry’s writing thoughts? Tune in on Twitter: @sdramsey. Or check out her website over here.

 

On The Path to World Domination: The First Publication

An example of a cheque.

Bitches gonna get paid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So. My first publication.

It was for a short story called ‘Magic Show’ that I wrote about…hang on, let me check the date mark…holy fuck, almost five years ago. Whoa. Didn’t see that coming. Anyway. I wrote the first draft of it on a six-hour bus ride from Halifax to Cape Breton. I always end up getting lots of writing done in places from which I can’t escape.*

It was also the first short story I’d written since about the seventh grade, so I was kind of unsure about it. But I knew there was an upcoming anthology, Undercurrents, that seemed to be a fit theme-wise, so I wrote up my cover letter, double-checked the manuscript and the letter for embarrassing spelling errors, and sent it in. Here’s the stages it went through:

The Letter: Eventually, a letter came, which told me my story had been accepted and that a contract and edits would follow.
I immediately turned it over just in case someone had scrawled LOL JK NOPE on the back, but they had not. I proceeded to squeal and get high-fives from everyone nearby.

The Contract: This was pretty simple, simple enough that even I, with my limited legal knowledge, could figure it out easily. This details things like payment, rights, all that good stuff. Every short story contract I’ve ever seen has been dead fucking simple. But if you’re unsure, there’s no shame in getting a friend fluent in Legal Speak to look it over, or checking it out via some stuff online. You should know what you’re getting into instead of just signing on the dotted line. Read that shit. You’re a writer, you should respect the power of words.

The Edits: The editors of the anthology sent me a marked-up version of my story with changes they’d like to see. I made the changes and sent it back. That’s it.
Admittedly, most of my edits have been simple, single-pass stuff: spelling errors, tense agreement, accidental slips of the keys that turn ‘shot’ into ‘shit’.** I’ve never had anyone ask me for a different ending, or a complete rewrite, so I can’t comment on how that goes.
However, one point I will make is that the editor is not usually asking. These are the changes they want, and if you choose not to make them, you’d best have a damn good reason. And “I just like it better this way” is not a reason. You’ll have to make a compelling case, or face the possibility of your story getting dropped. Ask yourself if the changes are that big a deal first.

The Book Launch (Optional): I was lucky enough that the first anthology I was published in was launched where I live, so I got to go to the launch. I also did a reading, which was fun. If someone asks you to do one, you should. If you don’t, then, again, have a really damn good reason, because they can really help sell the book, which helps you. (Those of you who are terrified, strap on your adult pants and check out this post on overcoming it.)
Also featured at the book launch was a signing. All us authors had little name-tags, so in the space between the readings, people who had a copy of the book would come up to us and ask for a John Hancock***. Also fun. Make sure you bring a good pen with you, one that won’t crap out. And smile and be pleasant. After all, these people just paid money—real money, that they worked for—for a piece of your writing. Wasn’t that nice of them? Hitch a smile on your face and be nice in return.

The Money: Ah, the part everyone’s waiting for. Sometimes you get this before the launch, sometimes after. I got this particular cheque after because our pay was based on a portion of sales. That’s another thing: sometimes you get a flat fee, sometimes you get a share or royalties or profits or earnings or whatever. Did you read the contract like I told you? It was in there.
That first cheque was pretty sweet. I remember taking it out of the envelope, looking at it and thinking, My first writing pay cheque. I should frame this.
Then I came to my senses and used it to buy beer. Because, dude: money. From writing. How fucking sweet is that?

*Except by the power of imagination.  
**I never stop making this mistake.
***That sounds like a sex act when I write it that way.

The Bare Knuckle Guide to Acquiring Rejection Letters

FISHERMEN'S SONS PRACTICE TARGET SHOOTING IN B...

Those rejections are in there somewhere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two scant weeks into the New Year, and I have it: the first rejection letter.* Count it, people. Twelve to go. Big thanks to Harper Voyager for their time, and for being the first on the list. Thanks for playing.

Submitting stuff is hard work. And, though I hate to put it this way, it’s not quite as….hm…rewarding as writing. Okay, it can be, when you get acceptances, but all that work is up front. With writing, you at least get the satisfaction of making something and then looking at it. Submitting is a whole other beast, and requires a different mind set.

Smile Scavenger asked about my first time getting published in the comments the other day, so I figured it would make an excellent post. Actually, it ended up making two posts, one about the process and one about my personal experience. Here’s part one, the process. Also known as the Guide to Acquiring Rejection Letters.
Your experience may vary, but most of the fiction writers I know started off the same way: with short stories. They’re short**, they’re easier to send out, and there’s usually a much shorter response time. Plus, they give you nifty writing credits that you can add to your cover letters. Always a bonus.

Short stories are how I started; I still do them. I’m doing a couple right now, as a matter of fact. They’re a nice palette cleanser after a long project. Here’s the approximate process I go through.

1. Write something. Or find a market for which you can write. Either one works. Sometimes I have stories that I just write, other times I write to a theme for a particular market. As always, write to the best of your ability and then edit that fucker. Polish it and make sure it’s ready to be seen by the judgemental public eye.

2. Find a market. If you wrote for something in particular, this is already done. If not, check the newest Writer’s Guide book or online listings. For speculative fiction, I’ve been making a use of Ralan, which has listings divided by type and pay. Make sure what you wrote fits the market. Just because you wrote a great werewolf erotica does not mean that it belongs in a hard sci-fi anthology. You’re just going to piss people off.
Sidebar: Before sending things out, I’d advise a visit to Preditors and Editors, a site that posts warnings about agents, markets, contests, and other things that have sketchy or downright bad policies. Check it out. Thank me later.

3. Write your cover letter, if you need one, and properly format your submission. All those things in the Submission Guidelines on those listings? They’re there for a reason. Someone, somewhere likes things that way, and since they’re reading your work, they get to decide. It’s not that hard to do the formatting, and you save your story from being read by someone you’ve already pissed off. You are not special. You cannot ignore the rules.

4. Check everything over. Should the submission be an attachment or pasted into the body of an email? SASE or postcard return? Response time? Still open? Did you get the editor’s name right?*** Double check it, then check it again, and then get someone else to fucking check it.

5. Send it out. Wish it luck. Mark a response time in your calendar or iPhone or whatever, so you know if you should send an e-mail at a certain point, or so you don’t forget where it went. You might also want to make a note of what story you sent and to what market, so you don’t accidentally submit to the same market twice. Awkward.

6. Wait. It’s helpful to do something else during this time. Write another story. Work on new ideas. Drink. Or, you know, just stare at the mailbox/hit refresh on your e-mail. Your call.

7. Get the response. If acceptance, celebrate and wait for further details or a contract. If rejection, shake it off, file it away, and get on with your life.

Rinse. Repeat.

Follow these steps, and soon you will be acquiring rejection letters of your very own.

*Actually, this wasn’t an official rejection letter, but the lack-of-response time has expired, which is a rejection. Still counts.
**No fucking kidding, Captain Obvious.
***Once again, why piss off someone before they read your story?

Back In Black: Year of the Rejection Letter

Black Coffee for Breakfast in White Porcelain Cup

We got an espresso machine for Xmas. This may help. Or I might never sleep again. (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Aaaaand we’re back. Did you miss me? I missed you. It was a lovely holiday here in Bare Knuckle Writer-Land, with many parties and visits. We all survived the Apocalypse of 2012, and started looking forward to the next Apocalypse. My money’s on the next one being dragged out of some ancient Asian text. Dragon of Unhappiness, anyone?

But it wasn’t all chocolates and scotch over the holidays. I always take this time to look back on what was really good about the last year, and what really fucking sucked. And figure out what I can do to improve the sucky parts. I believe these are known in the common tongue as New Year’s Resolutions. Cliche, I know, but there is something compelling about turning over your life in the dead stub of the year and looking at its inner workings. And then seeing what else you can make of it.

As a rule, I usually make three resolutions: one personal, one physical, and one professional. I tend to post them somewhere where they can be read by other people as a half-assed attempt at accountability. And, honestly, I can’t think of a better place to post the professional one than right here. With all those eyes on me, I’m way less likely to flake the fuck out in March. So here it is.

In 2013, I want to get rejected more.

Weird? Yeah. Let me explain: I want to get published more. But by its very nature, that means getting more rejections, because the more your work is out there, the more chances it has of being shot down. But if it’s never out there, it will never be published. So, this year, I resolve to get more rejections. Best part is, if I get an acceptance, it doesn’t count toward the total, so I have to submit more stuff.

This year, I resolve to amass thirteen rejections. Baker’s dozen. Novels, mostly, but I have some short stories I can send out as well. And if I don’t have enough material, well, I’ll just have to write more, won’t I? Until I can pin up those rejections. I will collect those fuckers, and learn from them, and use them to my advantage. Until I can drive them before me and hear the lamentation of their envelopes.

But this isn’t just about me. Why not make your own writing resolution? Resolve to finish a novel, or try a screenplay, or dabble in erotica. Dust off that half-finished manuscript and work on it. Start something entirely new. Submit your first short story to a market. Try something just for the hell of it and see if you make it through the other side. Own the scars and add more.

Me, I’m going to be over here for the rest of the day making a list of markets to submit stories and novels to. Put some speed metal on the stereo, make a cup of coffee, and plan my attack. I will return in December with the hides of thirteen rejections nailed to my shield.

2013: it’s going to be bad ass.