Thursday, January 23, 2014

FAQ: Managing Your Inner Editor

Continuing my Frequently Asked Questions series, here's another question I hear all the time (including yesterday on Twitter!): how do I write through my Inner Editor? How do I protect my creativity and output from that constant nagging feeling that I'm doing this wrong, that I'm not good enough and never will be?

This is a complicated issue, and one that will never be fully resolved, because feelings of insecurity and inadequacy are just part of being a writer (or an artist, or a human). The entire practice of writing your thoughts out and then putting them up not just to be read, but to be judged, is nerve wracking for everyone (and anyone who claims they're not anxious when their book goes out for the first time is either enlightened or a liar). But while these insecurities and fears are universal and inevitable, they don't have to rule your life. They can't, or else you'll never finish anything. So, here's how I deal with my "Inner Editor," hopefully it will also be helpful to you.

Let's start with some terminology. Though I use it myself because it's the accepted label for the phenomenon, I actually take great umbrage to the term "Inner Editor." An editor is someone who criticizes your book in order to help you improve it. They are on your side. What we're talking about here is really more like your Inner Amazon Reviewer. And not one of the good ones either, but the truly toxic, anonymous, nitpicking trolls who tear books down for the thrill of it.

That's how I think of the voice in my head, not as an editor or a critic or anyone with actual authority on the subject, but as a troll. I respect my editors and critics, I value their input, but trolls have nothing to offer the conversation, and ninety nine times out of a hundred, neither does the nagging voice in your head.

This isn't to say you should ignore potential problems you notice while writing. You do, however, have to remember to be cognoscente of the fact that not all issues are worthy of action. "My heroine needs to make more choices so she doesn't end up a passenger in her own story" is a valid criticism that deserves consideration. "Vampires are stupid, only stupid people write about vampires" is not. Neither is "[Insert famous author here] never used that word," or "No one will ever want to read this."

As with pretty much everything in writing ever, the key to managing your inner Amazon troll is mindfulness and attention. If you're writing or editing and you're just constantly down on yourself about what you're producing, stop a second and ask, why? Why am I being so mean to myself? Are these valid criticisms, or am I just afraid and taking it out on my work? And remember, it's perfectly normal and okay to be afraid. The act of writing something you're going to ask people to read means opening yourself up to rejection, and everyone is afraid of rejection. But you do need to recognize that fear for what it is when it's clouding your judgment of your work. You also need to realize that your viewpoint here probably won't be objective, so I highly recommend having a trusted critique partner (I use my husband) who can look at your story and tell you if it actually sucks or if you're just being ridiculous.

The most important thing to remember in all of this is that no story is perfect, or is going to please all people. Even The Last Unicorn has 1 star reviews (I HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON WITH THOSE PEOPLE). No matter what you write, someone's going to hate it, and that's okay, because someone else will love it beyond reason. All you can do is write the best book you can, and if it flops or falls apart, make the next one better, and never ever make long term decisions ("I'll never write again") off short term freakouts. Because at the end of the day, writing is a vocation, not a one time effort, and the more you write and submit and publish and deal with rejection, the less frightening the process becomes.

So while you'll probably never be truly rid of your inner troll, your ability to tell it to STFU will increase exponentially, as will your ability to sort through the negative noise to find the important things your real inner editor is trying to tell you, the actual problems you need to fix to make your book better, and that is the voice you should be listening to.

Good luck with your writing and I hope this helps!

Monday, January 6, 2014

FAQ: To blog or not to blog

First up, OMG Fortune's Pawn did so well as the Kindle Daily Deal yesterday! Thank you everyone for helping to spread the word and make it a success!! Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog...

Back in November (before my life went crazy. Ahhhh, those innocent days!) I had a ton of fun doing my annual National Novel Writing Month Q&A thread on the Fantasy forums. There were a lot of good questions, but a few in particular came up over and over again. I was very happy with my answers, but these days you have to dig through 13 pages of forum posts to find them, and no one likes that. I still want to get the info out there, though, because these are clearly the issues that weigh on people's minds! So to preserve the information I put out, I'm going to be doing a series of posts here on my own blog answering these Frequently Asked Questions, starting with the single most popular query:

Do I need a strong social media presence as an author?

Agent blogs must really be pushing this, because people were obsessed with this question! I can see the anxiety. I mean, writing a book and trying to sell it is a daunting challenge already, but then be told you have to go out and gather a huge herd followers on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram/Goodreads/etc and maintain a popular blog/website? That's a lot of pressure.

At this point, I feel the need to reiterate that I'm not an agent and I haven't been a new author since 2010, but I do have a little experience with the author side of this whole "publish books" thing, and I'm just going come out and say that I think people are putting too much weight on this as a requirement. 

When you're trying to convince someone to take a chance on your book, be it an agent, publisher, or the general reading public, it's nice to be able to say "oh, and I also have 500,000 Twitter followers and get 1000 comments on every blog post." Preexisting popularity is a good sign that you've got something to offer. It makes you seem less like a risk and more like a success bandwagon (with a built in potential audience) everyone wants to ride. But while it's undoubtedly much easier to get people on board if you're already a star, none of this changes the fact that you still have to have something amazing to give them once they get there.

As much as publishing has changed over the last few years, one core fact remains as true as it ever was: the book is everything. An new author with no web presence and an amazing book will beat a new author with a huge social media network and a lousy book every single time. That said, of course, people with huge networks usually have all those followers precisely because they're entertaining and amazing (see The Bloggess and Hyperbole and a Half as two fantastic examples), but the impressive social media reach is the effect, not the cause. They became popular because they created something other people wanted to read, not the other way around.

So to anyone out there wringing their hands over the idea that a giant social media network is somehow vital to being a successful author, don't. I'm not saying you should ignore social media. You need to have a website up with basic information no matter what, and having professional accounts on the major social network sites you enjoy is also a good idea. This is your business front, the professional face you show to the world since writers don't have shop windows. (It's also a good way for potential agents/publishers to see whether or not you're crazy.) 

That said, no one expects you to have a huge social media reach yet. They'd love if you did, of course, but it's hardly mandatory. A great blog/Pinterest/Instagram account is always a bonus, even if it's not writing related. So if you already have a social media platform you enjoy, go for it! But if the idea of blogging regularly makes you break out in hives, don't worry about it. No one wants to read a blog where every post is "Sorry I took so long to blog," anyway. To get started as an author, all you need is a clean, sane, professional presence on the web and a great book, and you can guess which of those is the most important.

I hope that helps relieve some anxieties! Again, this is just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. Still, I've yet to meet anyone in publishing who would turn away a book they loved because the author failed to meet the required number of Facebook friends. Social media presence can be built later, but a good book is priceless. Never let the hype take your eyes off the prize: writing a book everyone will want to read.

Happy writing!
- Rachel

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014 - The final Paradox novels and my new series!

Well, after a long and traumatic December, things have finally settled down here at the Aaron/Bach writing factory, which is great because 2014 is shaping up to be a huge year for new stuff!

First up, we've got the final two books of my SF series! After kicking things off with a bang in FORTUNE'S PAWN, Devi Morris's tour of destruction continues in HONOR'S KNIGHT (Feb 25, 2014) and HEAVEN'S QUEEN (April 22, 2014). I can't say how happy I am that Orbit's releasing these books so close together! I wrote the series to be one continuous story, and I absolutely can not wait for you guys to read the thrilling conclusion. Seriously, the final half of HEAVEN'S QUEEN is the most intense thing I've ever written. SO! EXCITED!

In other thrilling news, I'm pleased to announce that FORTUNE'S PAWN will be the Amazon Daily Deal on January 5 (this Sunday!). So if you haven't read the book yourself or if you have, and you know someone who you think would like it, this is your chance to pick up the FP ebook for only $1.99! That's a steal! I'll be making tons of announcements the day of, of course, but this is your official heads up!

But exciting as all of that is, it's not what I'm most excited about. That honor is saved for what comes next...MY NEW SERIES!! 

As the youngest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn't cut it in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has reached the end of her patience.

Now, trapped as a human and banished to the DFZ--a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit--Julius has one month to prove to his mother that he can be a proper, ruthless dragon or lose his true shape forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test.

He only hopes that humans are more trustworthy than dragons...

Remember back when I was talking about writing a dragon book? Well, here it is: a new near future UF series about dragons and magic and general awesomeness coming in JULY 2014 from, well, me actually! I will be self publishing this new series this July.

"Hold up, Rachel," you might say. "Why the sudden jump to self publishing? Did your editor reject this book or something?"

Not at all! I actually specifically wrote this book for self publication. I decided to go this route for several reasons, many of which you've heard before (wanting more control over the publication process, better royalty rates, getting to pick my own cover, etc.), but the main reason I decided to self publish was a purely Rachel problem. See, I write fast. Like, really fast. And the cold hard truth is that New York simply cannot buy my books as quickly as I can write them.

Self publishing provided me with a ready solution to this conundrum, and I feel that this new series is the perfect candidate for this grand experiment. Nice Dragons Finish Last is very much like my Eli books in tone, but with a modern twist and an expansive new world. I've also invested a great deal of my own time and money into making sure these new books are edited and proofed to the standard of my NY published books.

Long story short, I think you're really going to like it! I'll be posting more details (and sample chapters) as we get closer to the July pub date. As always, thank you thank you thank you for reading, and I hope you're ready for something awesome in 2014!