Choosing the “Write” Publishing Path

When I started writing, I had dreams of walking into bookstores and seeing my books on shelves.

Let’s be real, what author doesn’t?

I imagined being picked up by a big publisher and making loads of money. Or, at least some money.

Again, let’s be real- what author doesn’t?

In 2015 I signed with my first agent. In 2017, I left my first agent.

The agent didn’t do anything wrong, per say. I think we were both at busy times in life and we weren’t in sync as a team.

It happens.

I don’t regret that chapter of my writing journey. I have learned from it.

Four years later, I am re-entering the writing world with a new perspective. It’s not that I still don’t dream of seeing my books on shelves or don’t dream of making money doing what I love.

It’s that I’m not so cynical about potentially doing it a different way.

I think I’ve shared before my original thoughts on self-publishing. There are those who do it very successfully, and those who I think rush it without editing or investing more into it. But if I’m honest, I’ve seen it mostly as the latter. I’ve seen it as authors who don’t have the dedication to go the traditional route.

Let me say this right now: I was wrong.

I never thought I would self publish. Maybe if there was a project my agent couldn’t sell or didn’t adore and I felt it needed to get out into the world. But I never thought I would “cut corners” and self publish because I was tired of chasing agents and publishers.

I thought self-publishing was the easy route, and I was determined to take the solid, though perceivably very difficult, traditional path.

But with age comes perspective, and the only thing constant is change, and here I am to say:

I’m self publishing one of my books.

Also, when I now think that I thought self-publishing was easy, let me say: I was wrong.

It might not be the right path for everyone, and even just a year ago I probably would have laughed if you suggested I was going to do this… but it is the RIGHT path for me at the moment.

And, who knows- this could be the start of something big!

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Writing for Joy

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a published author. Three clear memories come to my mind of defining moments.

As a courtesy, I will just share one for now.

When I was in fifth grade, we were studying explorers. We had the option for a project to either do a straight report on one of the explorers, or to create a sea monster (with some criteria) and write a short story that involved one of the explorers.

I chose the latter, and wrote and illustrated my very first picture book about Sir Francis Drake discovering a sea monster.

While I do not still have this book in my possession (here is hoping my parents do), I remember my fifth grade history teacher coming into my Language Arts class, interrupting, to inform everyone that: “Emily, I knew you would write a good story, but you wrote an actual book! You have to read it aloud.”

I felt so much joy and pride as I got to read it to the class.

This was a big moment for me. Another affirmation that I could do this. Another affirmation that I would do this.

I was going to be a published author.

Writing has always been therapeutic. I can’t say it has always been joyful. There have been times where writing has been solely to help me process and move forward. But it was there for me as needed.

Somewhere along the lines as I got older, writing was work.

(I know this is a gray area, as writing to supply my full time income would be the dream, and that’s what full time authors do.)

I don’t mean that I couldn’t handle deadlines, or I didn’t enjoy writing anymore because of having an agent, or that editing was my enemy and I didn’t want to do it. I mean, somewhere along the way, the words started feeling forced and the love and passion that I always associated with writing… wasn’t there.

This can happen as writers. I’ve written about it before.

In my busy season of life, and the pressure that seemed to come with establishing myself as a writer, and the way my brain was turning from motherhood and all the things… writing became a chore. And when it came down to it and I had to find things to cut from my time so I might reinvest in others, for the first time my writing and all that came with it (blogging, social media, querying, free lancing) met the chopping block.

But not anymore.

After taking a solid break (it had been two years since I truly revisited an idea and four years since I left my agent), I can now say I am more motivated than I have felt in so long.

Doing things for writing doesn’t feel like a chore, but a joy.

I want to make spreadsheets for research and read about different types of publishing and explore ideas that have been taking up notes on my phone storage. I want to connect with other writers and those in the writing community and do the things.

Joy in the details for the writing life.

This is what I mean for chore verses joy.

And of course I’m not always going to want to do all the things. No one does. I mean, there are those of us who love the research. Those of us who hate editing. Those of us who want to write the book and lock it up, never to share it. Those of us who want to write for the masses.

It’s all different for each of us. And that’s beautiful.

And I think one thing about allowing yourself to take space from something is if it’s meant to be, you’re going to go back to it. And if it’s not, odds are you’ll find the next amazing thing you’re meant to do.

Everything Has A Season

Hello, friends. It’s been a while. Over two years a while, actually.

Just a smile to say “hi!”

I hope you all will understand. Not only have there been so many changes for the world, but everyone has been navigating the rocky storms of life on their own ships.

Same storm, own ships. Did I get that metaphor right? I think so. Let’s just leave it there.

The past two years were a whirlwind. My family moved again, my husband lost his job thanks to Covid, we had a new baby (girl!), my husband got a new job, our plans for schooling changed… the list goes on.

With all that change and adjustment, my writing fell to the wayside. Having four kids and homeschooling 2-3 of the four while husband travels for work is no joke. My mind wasn’t up for finding new words to sew together. My mind appreciated shutting down to mindless tasks of watching shows or reading books when I couldq.

Writing wasn’t happening. I started a few things, queried agents maybe once, but really- it was a season to put those dreams on the back burner. I took the time. I stepped away. I stopped pressuring myself and saying I HAD to keep going or my dreams of being published would never happen.

I needed the space.

Space is a good thing.

Maybe space feels scary or like the end of something, but I have found as I’ve gotten older that space is necessary. After all, if you can’t do things scared, then are you really challenging your paths of life?

Space might seem like you’re letting go of someone or something, but usually it is a wonderful way to find your footing. And you can get back on that path, or start a new one entirely.

I’m finding my way back to writing.

Or rather, I am finding my way to put my writing out into the world once more.

I’m visiting projects that I still love and can picture so clearly on a shelf.

I am facing a new season, a different footing, a different path.

I can’t wait to share what that looks like with you.

finding your voice

I am currently working on a project that has been a long time coming. For almost two years it’s been festering, just waiting for me to let it out. Slowly, the plot has  grown and the words are now finding their way on to the page.

The thing about new projects, though, is that you have to step back and take the time to find your voice in it all. The characters take on their own lives, with their own dialogue and hobbies and back story and everything. As the author, we mold it… but really it can take on a mind of its own.

Already the first five chapters of this project have changed three times. Three. And while I’m on the third round of trying to bring this thing to life, I’m already contemplating an entirely different route. It would change the story, changes pieces of the puzzle I’ve been literally holding in my hands for almost two years, and yet it’s calling me.

How do you find your voice when writing a story? How do you know which way is right, and which way is the road less traveled by that could be the way?

If you came here for answers, you really should move on. I don’t have them.

The answer to the question is you. Only you as the author can decide which way is the best way, and sometimes you have to explore so many different routes and options until you happen upon the best one.

Heck, the best way can sometimes be the way you didn’t want to go. You could be kicking and screaming the entire writing time and stumble upon so many blocks that you think you’ve lost your gift. This happened to me with my first finished novel. I didn’t want to stray from the truth, until I realized that the truth just wasn’t enough. It needed to be more. Slowly the fiction truly took over, and it continues to grow whenever I finish it.

Don’t be afraid to find your voice. Don’t be afraid to rewrite the book a completely different way because you have a new idea, or someone gave you a direction that you want to explore. This is art, after all. There is no “right” way.

There are only paths yet to be traveled on, and only you can decide which one will be the path that leads you to

The End.

making time in the new year

Happy 2019 all! How is yours starting out? I must admit mine has been a bit rocky, but I still have hope.

I have realized in the past few weeks of reflecting that my life has taken many twists and turns I didn’t expect it to when I began my writing journey. To be fair, I’ve been writing my whole life, but when I really considered myself an author– that’s when I count the beginning of my journey. And since then, so many things have changed. Within those changes- slowly but surely my writing has moved farther and farther back on the burners of life.

Now, I’m a writer. An author. Anyone who knows that feeling of an attachment to the written word like it’s your left arm knows that it doesn’t just go away.

But sometimes other things become more important. Raising babies. Relationships. Moves. Other careers. Getting well.

We enter seasons of life that don’t always allow our left arm to be as important as our right. It’s a scary feeling, and many times I have denied it. The truth is, though: it’s okay.

It’s okay because I’m still writing. I’m still working on things and jotting down ideas and making time in my schedule to sit down and write. Those times might not be hours upon hours like the days where I only had one child, or no children for that matter. It might not be a drive to be traditionally published quite as strong as it was three-and-a-half years ago before I signed with my first agent. But that’s okay.

I have written earnestly before about making time to be a writer, but what about the seasons of life where we truly cannot find that time? I know, I know. I’m eating my own words. Before I said something along the lines of: if you’re a writer, you make/find the time. And I still believe that. But I also know there are those of us that want to make that time, and maybe even have that time– and then we make the choice to say “not right now” and watch a movie with a friend instead, or sit and read another author’s book.

My goal is to take as many little moments this year and put them toward my writing. However, I also want to give myself grace and know that even if I chose other things first-

I’m still a writer.

agent odds are (not) in your favor

It’s a new year full of new goals. These are typically made up of word counts, edits, queries, deadlines, and the dream of book deals (at least for me).

In an industry where the odds don’t seem in our favor, it might be time to admit the truth: they aren’t.

May-the-odds-be-ever-in-your-favor

Sarah La Polla of Bradford Literary Agency wrote an end-of-year post where she shared her query stats. While this is different for every agent, it really puts numbers out there for (us) writers.

You can read her original post here, but in the end it came down to her receiving almost 4,000 queries in 2017. (And she was closed to queries for the summer!)

Let’s think about that number.

4,000.

Now, I’m not a true statistics person. I wish I could pull out how many queries writers send out on average, how many rejections writers get, and so forth. But in the end, it doesn’t work that way because this business is so subjective. (That’s what I’m telling myself so I don’t have to think much past the number above emboldened… and so I don’t even have to attempt any math.) One writer might get 100 rejections while another gets an agent their first time up to bat.

But the truth is, there are a lot more writers than there are agents- and we all want to volunteer as tribute.

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It can get discouraging to keep pushing on, project after project and/or query after query, in hopes of securing the agent of our dreams. And even then, if we are blessed with an agent, we have to go through the process all over again with editors/publishers. It’s never ending. And that agent might not be the one. You might have to go through the process with another agent before going through it with an editor or publisher. And the cycle continues!

So, why do we do it?

I can’t answer that question for you. I really can’t.

For me, it’s the desire I’ve had since I was about six-years-old to have my books on shelves at your nearest bookstore. To share the stories that I have embedded in my soul and are begging to get out into the world.

It’s because that no matter the ruts, no matter the breaks, no matter what life throws at me- I’m always craving words. Words, words, and more words.

I don’t show you the post from Sarah to depress you, but rather to encourage. The odds might not be in your favor, but know that if you keep working and pushing and dreaming and diving- you can be the exception to the rule.

You can be the one-in-four-thousand. 

Say it out loud. Be at peace with it.

The odds are not in your favor.

That way, when that agent and/or publisher comes calling- you’ll be even more proud.

kvXq8

 

 

give thanks for your writing

In a competitive business where everyone is hoping to make a break, it’s hard sometimes to be thankful for the season you’re in.

You might just be starting out with your novel (it is NaNoWriMo after all). You might be querying, starting with your new agent, on you third agent, about to score that deal, releasing your fifth book– who knows!

The thing is, the publishing industry is a crazy, scary, beautiful place. If we didn’t know that, we wouldn’t be writers… but sometimes it’s easy to forget it.

This is just a small reminder to give yourself a pat on the back, and it’s as much for me as it is for you, reader. Remind yourself that you’re amazing because you’ve actually put words to paper. You are one step ahead of those that “want to find time” or “always wanted to write.” And if you are one of those later people that I’ve mentioned, there is never a better time than now to start.

Yes, now. I mean, maybe finish reading this…but then get your butt off here and start writing your own words.

There are never going to be perfect conditions. Maybe you think you need to work for a while so you have the time to really focus on your writing after, or maybe you want to build your family roots before you write that best seller– but if you put off writing over and over and over again… eventually you’ll miss it.

Set your mind to it. Write. Even if you can’t come up with that amazing idea, just start writing something, anything.

Anything is better than nothing.

Give thanks, writer. You are in a beautiful season- even if you don’t think you are. There’s always something beautiful to find…and something beautiful to write.

depression, boredom, and the creative mind – a guest post from JD Buffington

Today I am happy to share a guest post from a fellow author, JD Buffington is a writer of horror and science fiction. He enjoys turning nightmares into stories and wants nothing more than to entertain readers with thoughts that keep him up at night. For more from JD, find his links below!

image1depression, boredom, and the creative mind

by JD Buffington

I’m reading THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB by Will Schwalbe and much like the book is about discussing books with Will’s mother, who has pancreatic cancer and this is how they’re bonding, I’ve been discussing themes and ideas presented in the book with my wife, who already read it. The book is full of tidbits here and there that make you go, “huh.” Whether it be an interesting take on an age-old insight or putting into better perspective things we might take for granted.

Case in point, Will learns how his mother is able to remain positive and focused on humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan while he struggles with the very concept of mindfulness. It’s in having that focus. Remaining vigilant in the present, and in your presence, also requires having something to work toward, a goal, a touchpoint in the here and now that keeps you constant. If you have something that keeps you focused, then it’s obvious that you can remain focused, even if not working on whatever project or goal your focus is on. You can apply the same skillset to other parts of your life.

In the chapter I was discussing with my wife, Will’s mother has a friend who is kidnapped in Afghanistan, and despite the worry that obviously brings about, Will’s mother is all the more determined to see a project completed that will work toward the betterment and enrichment of the Afghani people, a library. Will see’s that this determination is what has kept his mother going through cancer and “not so good days” and the pain and exhaustion those can bring. She’s not focused on her own pain, even when she’s having a bad time of it, she’s more concerned with other things, and that keeps her going.

I brought up the idea that this plays into the concept of retirement being the number one killer of old people. Not having something to do, being bored, is exhausting itself, and life-draining. I said, “…that’s why I’m glad I’m an artist, I’m always thinking, I’ll never be bored.”

Here my wife gave me the “really?” look.

Of course I can be bored. I’ve been bored! But my boredom is more born out of depression than not having anything to do. Even in my deepest pits of despair, I’m still thinking about creative projects…mostly beating myself up about not working on them, but I cannot recall a time that I didn’t have something on my mind.

Which, that raises a concerning point: when is focus worry? When is boredom depression? And how do you separate these bedfellows when they become entangled? Well, if you know, please reach out to me, because it’s something I and about half the world’s population would like to have the answer to.

The truth of the matter is, sometimes they’re intrinsically linked. Boredom can be the result of depression. Or, worry and anxiety can bear out of focus and determination. That’s not always the case, but turning your, well, focus onto what it is, right now, that is causing boredom or worry, is an exercise in mindfulness. For me, my anxiety and depression feed my creativity, albeit sometimes in unhealthy, obsessive meandering through the corridors of my own brain, but as sick as I can make myself, it’s fuel for a fire that is always burning.

I can’t imagine a quiet mind. I want one, to be able to just shut up for a minute and just enjoy some silence would be a miracle for me. Even as I write these words, I’m thinking about this short story, that novel, the laundry, are my new pets going to get along, am I gonna make ends meet this month. It’s constant. Now, I’m sure that’s true for everyone, there are all these racing thoughts and concerns that literally keep us motivated throughout the day. What I’m seeking, what I think Will is surprised by in his mother, is the ability to pick one. No matter the situation, a project or goal or task. I’m writing this out in hopes of making sense of it, and if I don’t make sense, maybe I’m giving voice to someone else’s concern. And that’s what I really want to do when I write these blog posts: conceptualize that stream of consciousness.

Yes, I get bored, but mostly, if I look bored, it’s more than likely I’m actually feeling depressed. This is just me, mind you, I’m not saying everybody who is bored is depressed, God knows there’s a bajillion kids who are so bored right now, but they’re not depressed. I, however, am always thinking, and sometimes the thoughts are quite heavy, either in content or sheer volume, amount and loudness. It’s because I have ideas. I’m not saying not everyone has ideas, I realize I’m treading potentially offensive waters here, but despite I’m worried about being worried, bored with being bored, I, personally, am never without something to think about. That’s the curse of the creative mind.

The blessing of the creative mind comes in spurts; when you can actually produce a product for others to enjoy, or that you enjoy yourself, or you’re able to take that constantly running, revving engine of a brain and apply it to daily tasks and come up with solutions to problems. Again, this is coming back to having a focus, being able to fine tune the barrage of ideas into a steady stream or controlled trickle of intention.

So, the point of this diatribe is to try and focus.

Pick one thing, once a day, and pay attention to it, see it through, put it on paper or into words or actions.

Is it mowing the lawn? Is it writing a novel? Is it making a dress? Is it just calling your mum? Be present, make whatever concerns you relate to what it is you want to focus on, that way, it’s not so much anxiety and worry, but constructive determination.

Now, if only I could take my own advice…

For more from JD you can visit his blog, CIRCUSsized, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, or find his material on Amazon. JD often writes about depression and anxiety, trying to make sense of, and normalize, these traits that threaten and feed his creativity.

own the word: you are an author

imageI used to say I was “just a writer.” That I “just write.”

Whenever someone would call me an author, I would humbly respond, “I’m just a writer. I haven’t been published.”

Somewhere in my mind was this idea that I wasn’t a true author until my book was published. Not until I could see it on Amazon or a shelf at Barnes and Noble. Only then would I be a real author.

Not before. Not now.

Right now, I just write and dream of being an author. I’m an aspiring author.

But what does aspiring mean?

aspire

to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value.

Do I long, aim or seek to be an author?

author

person who writes a novel, poem, or essay; the composer of a literary work….

Well, according to those definitions–no. I don’t aspire to be an author.

I AM an author.

If you ask if I’m a person who longs, aims, and seeks to write a novel, poem, or essay, that’s wrong.

I’ve already done that.

I’ve already written a novel. I’ve written two, actually, and I’m working on a third. I’ve already developed the words and sentences and chapters and characters and everything that goes into the literary work.

So, I am not “just a writer.”

(In fact, according to the dictionary, there isn’t a difference. A writer is an author. They can be simultaneous. If someone is in the business of writing books, he or she is an author.)

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been published. It doesn’t matter if you’re only halfway, or a third, or a fourth of the way through a piece of work.

YOU are an author.
You have come up with a beautiful, new idea. You are writing that idea. You are slaving away over every word choice, every twist and turn. You are getting to know your characters and bringing them to life. You are breathing the story in and out so others can one day do the same.

You ARE an author.
If you have queried a book that has been rejected countless times or you got an agent on your first try, you are an author. If you have gone on rounds and rounds of submissions, only to have to turn to another project, you are an author. If you have self-published and gone through the hard work of promoting your own story, you are an author.

You are an AUTHOR.
You have created a story, a life, a world out of nothing but words and your imagination. You have stayed up countless nights, lived off of coffee alone, and missed opportunities to make a deadline. You have sacrificed favorite characters or storylines for the sake of your art and stuck to your guns when you weren’t willing to sacrifice your hard work.

When you say you’re an aspiring author or you’re just a writer, you are saying that you are TRYING to be something, or you are MERELY something.

Don’t belittle yourself. Enough people are going to try to do that for you as time progresses.

YOU ARE AN AUTHOR.
Own it. Be it. Write it.

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Get your “own the word” tee in pink, blue, yellow, or purple ombre. Available in various styles and colors!

This post was originally posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog and has also been featured on Golden Wheat Literary‘s blog.

 

Originally posted May 2016. 

writing for quality over quantity: beware of the dreaded word count

IMG_4939These days, every genre has its requirements/preferences.

Adult Novels can be up around 80k, sometimes higher.

YA it’s good to be between 55k-80k.

PB you shoot for 28-32 pages, keeping it below 1,000 words so it doesn’t seem too long.

MG is safe between 20k-55k, depending on subject matter.

(Thanks for the info, Writer’s Digest!)

But the truth of the matter is, focusing on word count while you’re writing can throw off your groove. You’re afraid to add that subplot that the book needs because it will push you over that high number of word count. Or, you’re book is a little shorter and you’re worried that will scare away agents/editors/publishers. Whatever it is- it’s hard not to think about the word count.

So how do you do it? How do you write, submit, edit (and so forth) without worrying about the end number of words that will be sitting at the bottom of your word document?

Remember it will CHANGE

Word counts change with every draft, every edit, every time you sit down to look at your masterpiece. This is why it’s so important to have writing counterparts- your critical readers and writing buddies and critique partners and editors and fellow writers. If you do it all on your own, then your work is more than likely never going to be as good as it can be.

Keep exceptions in mind 

Books push boundaries. As readers and writers this is good to keep in mind. I’m not saying that you should be like Ulysses and have your opening sentence being pages and pages long, but it’s good to keep in mind that there are always authors who can push those boundaries/limits/suggestions and do it well. Maybe your MG is a little long, and it worries you– but it is all together and beautifully rafted. Don’t worry. Either someone will love it, or someone will help you tender it to the right word-length.

Just keep WRITING

Goodness knows that if you focused on everything that could go wrong, or everything that is wrong, or everything that you NEED to do to get your novel there– it would never be written. My first book I was so concerned with the chapters being the same amount of pages that it almost kept me from writing certain scenes, and almost made me write in things that weren’t needed. In fact, if you ask my editor, she’ll tell you these things were there in the first draft. Because I was SO worried about hitting a certain amount of words, that I lost track of what I was really writing.

As always, my final suggestion is to just keep going. Write what you have in mind, and then whether you need to add or cut- it’s going to be alllllll right.