What it’s Really Like, Part 1: Getting an Offer

Ever since I got the offer on my novel, I’ve felt a mix of exhilaration and crushing fear.  I thought it might be fun to write a series of posts explaining the process and how I’ve felt during it.  I’m going to call this series “What it’s Really Like,” because when we’re working towards publishing professionally, many of us get an idea in our head of what it will be like, and while I’m only completely aware of my own experience, I’m willing to bet a lot of it is universal.

Despite that universality, however, there are some caveats:

  1. My experience is mine alone. While I know authors who are further along the path of pro writing than I am, some of them significantly so, and many of them have reported similar experiences, there are also some differences that are pretty important.
  2. I am publishing through a small press. By definition, this means my experience will be somewhat different than an author who publishes through a large publishing house, and it will also be different than someone who is working as an indie author, self-publishing their work.  None of these things are better, but they are different.

I’ll post each entry when it’s time, by which I mean as things happen.  Right now I’m in a sort of limbo, waiting for the next step in the process to begin.  So I’ll start by telling how it began–or, rather, how I went from “aspiring novelist with a finished book but no contract” to “author with a book contract.”

In 2016, Flame Tree Publishing, a company that had been publishing themed science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies for several years,   announced that they were going to open to novel-length works at the end of the year.  I submitted my novel, The Widening Gyre, on 10 December 2016.

And then I waited.

The response window had been claimed to be about four months, but I’ve been submitting works for publication long enough to know that was not going to be the case.  But eventually, I just about forgot about it.

In March 2018, I remembered I’d submitted the work, and I queried the publisher, expecting that I’d missed a rejection email in spam or something.  But I was informed by a helpful staff member that the book was still under consideration.

Then, on 11 May 2018, I checked my email at lunch.  I noticed an email from someone at Flame Tree, and I could see in the gmail list that it began “Thank you so much for letting me read The Widening Gyre, and please excuse the delay in getting back to you.”

Now, “Thank you for letting me read…” is how pretty much every rejection I’ve ever received began.  So when I saw those words, my heart sank a bit.  But I knew I had to read the rest of it at some point, so I clicked to open it.

The next words were “I enjoyed the manuscript quite a bit…” Now, you’d think that would be a good sign, but I’d had a couple of nice personal rejections (as opposed to form rejections), and some of them began with “Though I enjoyed the book,” so I was still convinced it was a rejection.  But then I read “… and I think it would make a great addition to the Flame Tree Press line…” and my brain went “Wait, what?”

And then the last part: “… And so I’m happy to make an offer for the book.”

There followed some business stuff to let me know the terms of the offer, but at that point my brain was still stuck on “make an offer for the book.”

In my reply, I tried to play it cool in my response, but the truth was I was practically dancing.  My mood had gone from sour in the middle of a bad day with my students to jubilant.  Someone liked my book–the same book I’d taken to calling the damned book when discussing it with friends–enough to buy it.  It’s really the ultimate “Yes, you are a writer” moment.

Next time, I’ll talk about the boilerplate and the contract.

Impostor Syndrome, My Old Friend

One hopes, when one is an “aspiring” writer, that once one gets within sight of being published, impostor syndrome will go away.

No such luck. Here I am with a contract, and the stupid brain weasels are still very much wrapped around my brain.

I just sent in my author homework.  And now I’m utterly convinced the editor and other staff are going to be rolling their eyes, convinced they made a bad deal and they need to do whatever they can to rid themselves of this idiot.

It’s nonsense, I’m sure.  If there are problems with what I sent in, I’m sure they’ll let me know and work with me to fix it.  But even knowing that, I keep expecting the worst.

The thing with Impostor Syndrome is that you can’t let it paralyze you.  Sure, feel inferior.  Go ahead and believe that you’re a terrible writer and nobody will ever like your work.  But don’t let it stop you.  Tell your brain to shut the hell up and get back to work.  Eventually, you’ll come out the other side and recognize the BS for what it is.

And then be prepared to do it over and over and over again.  I do it all the time as a teacher, and as a writer. It stinks, but what else are you going to do?

The News I’ve been Sitting On

One of the most frustrating things is when something amazing happens to you and you can’t tell anyone. For the past week, I’ve been trying to act like business-as-usual when inside, I’m doing 99,000 consecutive HappyDances.

I kind of want to go on and on before I reveal it, but that would be mean. So: I am pleased to announce that I have sold my novel, The Widening Gyre, to Flame Tree Press, a UK publisher. The book will be published in “mid-ish 2019” and will be available in both bookstores and online booksellers.

I am beyond pleased, here.

Rewrite, Work, Home

Rewrite

Work proceeds.  I was done with chapter one’s rewrite, but then something occurred to me and I had to add a scene or two, so I’m doing that.  It’s going to radically change the end of this chapter and the beginning of the new one, but I think it will go a long way to making the book better.

Work

Teaching is a weird profession.  I love the time with students but I hate the grading.  I hate the endless stack of papers, and I hate the tendency of so many of my students to listen to me, but do precisely the opposite of what I am trying to teach them to do.

Home

My house is a stack of boxes.  Hopefully we sign and get the keys to the new house Wednesday, then move some carloads of small stuff over, then the movers come and help us move the rest on Saturday 12/9.  Our goal is to be completely out of the house and the house cleaned for the new owners on 12/10, but we’ll see.  We technically have until 12/20, but we’d rather not take that long, for their sakes as well as our own.

How Chuck Wendig’s Advice Saved My Book

So, there was this scene.

It had some good stuff in it–a line of dialogue I liked, a conversation that needs to happen at some point–but the scene, as a whole?  It was awful.  The kind of awful one writes when you’re just too tired to be at the keyboard, and you sink into silly wish-fulfillment.  It read, honestly, like RPG-based fanfic.  Bleah.

Yesterday I opened twitter up and read some of the people I like.   One of them is Chuck Wendig, who, if you don’t know, is a writer, and also writes a lot of profanity-laden, kick-you-in-your-teeth writing advice on his blog.  Yesterday on twitter were a series of posts (link goes to a storify version of them) about daring to change direction.  And, reading them, my brain flash-fired on a new scene and chapter that would make the story better, AND get my protagonist to a place, and a confrontation, I need him to be in that works better than what I had planned.

So this morning I copy and pasted the parts I liked into a folder I keep in my Scrivener project called “Snips.”  The Snips folder is for those bits of prose that work in a scene that otherwise doesn’t, or bits of text I wrote out of sequence and haven’t found a place for yet. Some of the snips will find their way back into the book, some won’t.  Maybe some will find their way into a future book.  We’ll see.  Anyway, I did the copy/paste, and then I took a snapshot (it’s a Scrivener thing) of the project, took a deep breath, and deleted 1,650 words.  Then I whimpered, went to the break point, and started writing.

And damned if it isn’t flowing better than it has in weeks.

Thanks, Chuck.

Nebula Awards Weekend

I’m planning to attend the Nebula Weekend (though probably not the awards banquet itself; haven’t decided, yet).  I figure, I may still be only an aspiring author, but it’s an opportunity to learn more, and that can’t be a bad thing, right?  And I just realized Ann Leckie will be there, so yes, I’m going, if only to get to meet her and maybe pick her brain a tiny bit.  

Anyway, if any VP alumni, from any class, will be in attendance, I’d love to meet up at some point.  Perhaps we can do a VP dinner, or breakfast, or what-have-you.  

Getting back to it

I’m starting to get back into a state of mind where I can get back into the writing.  I lost my “groove” for a while there, partly because of work, and a little because of my grandfather’s death.  But now the words are coming again, and I’m finally enjoying the process again.  

Someday, when I’m a full time writer,* I’ll work on the Scalzi Plan (my title, not his), wherein he works on writing from 8am to noon or 2000 words, whichever comes first, and then the rest of the day he can do whatever, from business issues to playing video games, twitter, etc.  

Until then, I don’t have that kind of luxury, since I have to earn a paycheck and take care of my little girl. But I can squeeze in a few hundred words a day, at least.  

And I will.  

 

*It seems silly to say “when” when I know as well as anyone that it’s also a big “if,” but let’s be positive today, mmkay?