Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.
This post was inspired in great part by Kristine Rusch’s post Story Demands.
For years I had this dream of publishing the Zander books traditionally. I pictured them on a bookshelf in a bookstore, I would even go to waldenbooks and find where my name was and kinda scoot the books around so there would be room for them. >.> Ever do that?
As brick and morter bookstores vanished (where I lived we only had chain bookstores, tehre were NO small indipendent ones) so too went the dreams of seeing the books in bookstores, and when I decided to self pub, there was a period slight mourning. I’d never ever see them in print. Ever.
Ok so that was dramatic, now I’m planning on putting out print editions eventually but for the n00b self pubber a couple years ago (a couple YEARS??? O.M.G!) it was a drastic thought, I wasn’t sure I’d ever do print copies at all.
But there were a lot of things that hung on. Sure I was going to self pub, but I was clinging to a lot of the traditional thought processes and that included how I was putting a story together and the wordcount caps.
As you can see, if you take a glance at my offerings, I have shorts up. Nothing large. A lot of reasons for this, many of them are legitimate time and RL issues (I have had some life upsets over the past year and a half that have impacted writing and publishing), but there are other reasons, a lot of them have to do with the fear issue. Fear of failure, fear of imperfection, fear of ridicule, fear of something I can’t quite put my finger on.
Larger project = heftier formatting = greater chance of typos = imperfection
And everyone has seen the ridicule self pubbers have garnered from others if they have typos and imperfections in their self edited* projects.
But then again, look at the ‘traditional’ published authors who ALSO get ridiculed. It doesn’t seem to matter who you are, if you put out something in the public eye there is going to be someone, somewhere who is going to hate it and make fun of it. Period.
I can list off numerous people who have ignored this and continued on. From musicians, to actors, writers, directors, and so on.
I can also point out people who have thrown in the towel, hundreds, thousands even, who have given up, gotten bitter, and continued on in their little lives, because somebody didn’t like what they did/said/produced so they stomped off in a hissy fit. Or just went *poof*.
Smaller projects, while still subject to dreaded typos, are less time consuming on formatting and easier to typo check (in theory). They are safer. Again in theory.
**takes a deep breath**
The projects that really move me are my big ones. The monstrocities. The doorstoppers. The ones that I got duped into believing years ago would never sell. The huge epic ones I was told that agents weren’t representing them because publishing companies aren’t going to buy them.
I’m not even going to breach the George R.R. Martin thing, I really am not.
So the things I learned as a nOOb writer, trying to break into the business included;
- don’t make your first book part of a trilogy, pubbers don’t want to risk investing on an unknown whose work might not even sell.
- Don’t make your first book larger than 90k. agents won’t shop it around because pubbers won’t buy it. Typesetting issues and cost and whatnot.
- General fantasy and Epic fantasy no longer sell. That ship sailed in the 90s, don’t write it. UF and vampires are the ‘thing’. And romance.
- Sex. If in doubt, toss sex on the page. The more your characters get laid, the greater chance you have of selling your book or bagging an agent, and the more explicit, the better. (I swear to dog I heard this from multiple sources!)
Now obviously these are wrong. I’m not going to tell you how to ‘bag an agent’ mainly because I don’t feel the need for one. There are other places you can go to locate that information, here is not one of those places.
But this was my understanding, among others which I am still discovering (some of these are so deep rooted I have a hard time defining what they are!) as I go along.
Last night I finished the rough draft of Bastard Prince. In came in at 52k with several placeholders in the beginning for battles and such that I need to plan out a bit better to fill in. There are some threads I need to lay, and flesh out, some plotholes which make it look like a colander (I think I could drive a jet plane through some of them XD) but it is, for lack of a better word, done.
I also pulled up what I have of bks 2 & 3 and got a good idea of what I need to do to finish them. And I saw what the myths of the trad pubbing had done to my story, and how it had tweaked with my head.
I had this story, you see. And it’s a life story. It’s Zander’s story, and it geeks me right the hell out. He’s got an intense one, with highs and lows, with loves and hates, joys and sorrows. Friendships and betrayals and all of it moves through a greater story which pushes the world he lives in to the brink, and eventually, possibly, over. And it’s important.
But to make it fit, to appease who I thought needed to be appeased to get it to the people I wanted to share it with, I came close to murdering it. One of the most important foundational parts of the story, book two (which needs a name) rings in at 16k right now with a lot of [this happens here] type of place holders. Why? Because I was going to skim over it. I was thinking, oh this is the romance part, the slow-down part. This is the part people are going to yawn through. I can do flashbacks.
You see, even though I decided I was going to self pub it, I was still stuck thinking I was writing one book. I was locked into thinking that I needed to keep it small. I was trying to squeeze all of this huge, epic story into 90k. 17 (or was it 19?) years of world shaking events into 90k.
I sat in on a few conversations with some friends at FM as I mentioned in some posts over here, and my brain kinda rebelled, and melted and threw a full on tantrum (really, brain? REALLY?) but in the end it was like a sign from dog.
I sat down and did the outlines for books 1 – 3 and knew that this was right. This is the story I’m trying to tell. And it’s all important. And 90k just isn’t enough room to tell it all. And that led me to think about Crossroads (which is the grande finale to the Zander story). Which scares me because that is a friggen monster story and brain started doing the flailing again because brain realized that I KNEW, finally, that I didn’t have to stick to the old formulas anymore, and when it stopped its flailing and started calming down, it started thinking about the things I tossed as irrelevant to the story because of that whole 90k/bag-an-agent-go-trad thing. Things that were relevant. Things that need to be there. I realize now that Crossroads will be two books (I *might* divide it three ways, I’m not sure yet).
DC – stop laughing. I can hear you. Even now, through the screen I can HEAR you laughing. Stop it NOW. -.-
The FM crowd, they make fun of me. My plotbunnies breed.
And you know what really bothers me? How much I have let myself be held back by traditional publishing myths. I have a lot of stories to write. I have a lot of stories to tell. Many of them, oh so many of them in Zander’s world. Zander isn’t the only character in his world that I adore. There’s Auron, Michael, Kale, Shaderunner, Rune, Tayek, Nyhavi, Tienovey(though there is a lot of Tien in Zander’s story) Ivonnova (still trying to decide on the spelling there), Caladorn, Eric(name change imminent), Brent, Uralko and so on. But without Zander’s tale, I just can’t tell the others. His is the foundation. Why? Ask brain, I just write
How much further, would I have been if I had realized sooner that I didn’t have to keep it under a certain size?
You know what really makes me wonder? What other things are going to come up that are holding me back in little ways?
I can say this, (hours after I wrote all that up there) I started reading ZBK1 today (I know I just finished it yesterday) and I found myself loving it. Just loving it. It’s rough, it needs work, and I see where I need to tweak things and I found some typos I need to fix. But I love it.
I love the words I finished working on yesterday. I don’t hate them. Another myth bites the dust.
This is why I took Angela James Before You Hit Send workshop. Seriously, worth every penny I spent on it, and if she puts it out in a book form I’m so buying it. Awesome, awesome workshop.