What A Debut Author Fears Most

what a debut author fears mostI thought I was afraid of public speaking. And I am. (That’s why I’m in Toastmasters.) But it turns out that’s not what I fear most about my Cinderella’s Dress book launch in two weeks. TWO WEEKS.

Saturday, I went to the Blink Tour at Changing Hands Bookstore to meet YA authors Lisa T. Bergren, Jill Williamson, Lorie Ann Grover, and Jonathan Friesen. Before the introductions were made, my launch event was listed in the announcements. Later, during Q&A, Lisa, author of 40 books was kind enough to ask me about my novel. This led to me asking the panel for their advice for an author heading into her debut month.

What Lisa said tipped over a domino that had me thinking all weekend.

She said that there are going to be people who really like my book. And people who really don’t. But the majority will be in the middle of the two extremes. She advised me to focus on the core readership and ignore the rest.

Walking with my husband that night, I told him about the event and what Lisa said. That’s when the mulling started. You know that thing authors do…when we go over every possible scenario, focusing heavily on the bad things that could happen. Note to self: You are supposed to do that for your CHARACTERS, not yourself.

Up until now, writing has been a very private activity. The only people who have read my work have been other writers, who get it. They get that it’s a work in progress. WIP. That anything and everything is up for revision. They get the striving to put the movie in my head into words that conveys that movie to another person. They get how hard that is.

Readers? Big scary readers? Do THEY get it? Do they get how hard it is to write a novel?

And then there has been the infamous Road to Publication. I look behind me and see a road littered with rejection slips. In front of me is the Cliff-of-the-Unknown.

Up until now, those rejections have been private. Shared, again, mostly with other writers who get it. Those who are also developing tough skin to suck up the rejection and keep trying. Keep writing.

Up until now, the advent of my first published novel, every book I’ve written has been rejected. Even though this book has been accepted and professionally edited, the dark cloud of rejection is not too far behind me. I still remember it.

What was once private will now be public.

I know there will be readers who reject my work publicly. They will forget that a real person is on the end of that rejection. I know this because I’ve read some reviews for other books and cringed in horror for the writer.

Book tastes are subjective. Once, I wrote a blog post about reading a book I didn’t particularly like (Too. Much. Voice). I was thrilled because it meant that even though my work was getting rejected by agents who liked their fairy tales “darker” all it would take is one editor whose tastes were like mine. It took awhile to find her, but I did. Now I’m in search of my tribe of readers.

A fear voiced loses some of its power.

That everyone won’t love my novel. This is what I fear most as a debut.

I am eager to meet my first bad review and get it over with. Like ripping off a Band-Aid!  *Please note, this is not a call for people to give me bad reviews. Truly, there is no need.*

And I am glad that—as always—I’ll have writer friends to talk it over with when it happens. The writing community is amazingly supportive. And one day, when a wide-eyed debuting author asks me for advice, I will give willingly and freely as I remember the fears leading into my own debut.

Now, if only I could nail public speaking.

One Day Sale – 20 Books for 99 Cents Each

Little Miss Lovesick_NEWSIZE_FINALI was thrilled to be invited to join a group of friends who wanted to do a fun cross-promotion for our books. For one day, today, all of our books – all in various sub-genres of romance – will be available on Amazon for only 99 cents! Yay!

If you like my books, you’ll find several in this list you would enjoy. 🙂 And if you’re reading this after Friday, my book Little Miss Lovesick (and perhaps some of the others) will still be on sale through the weekend. Plus, I’ve made Lovesick 99 cents across all retailers, so you can get it for a buck on Barnes & Noble or iTunes or anywhere you like to buy ebooks!

If you’re on Twitter or Facebook or other places, would you mind passing this information along? I’d love to feel like I helped my friends find new fans. 😀 Thanks a million!

Happy reading!

Kathy Bennett, A Deadly Justice

Kitty Bucholtz, Little Miss Lovesick

Linda Carroll-Bradd, Capturing the Marshal’s Heart

Kathleen Creighton, The Prince and the Patriot

Jacqueline Diamond, The Cowboy and the Heiress

Gillian Doyle, Mystic Memories

Susan R. Hughes, A Baby for Christmas

Michelle Knowlden, Indelible Beats

Heather MacAllister, Counterfeit Cowgirl

Mindy Neff, The Bad Boy Next Door

Louella Nelson, Cora Lee

Lyn O’Farrell, Worth the Risk

Dee Ann Palmer, Where Eagles Cry

Sandra Paul, Last Chance For Marriage

Michael H. Payne, A Curial Quartet

Edie Ramer, Christmas at Angel Lake

Angie Ray, Ghostly Enchantment

Susan Squires, Waiting For Magic

Kristy Tate, Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent

Patricia Thayer, Colton Creek Cowboy

Three-Pass Editing System

My publisher, Entangled Publishing, uses the three-pass editing system. As I write this, I’m in the lull between first and second passes, and am busy taking care of my to-do list, so when the second pass arrives, I can dive right in.

The three-pass editing method is a great system for authors to add to their writing routines.

First Pass

THE BIG EDIT. This is the pass where the editor(s) take a look at the big-picture items. The plot, the character arcs, the plot holes, etc. This is the “dreaded editor letter” everyone talks about. It’s a developmental edit. This is the pass where you may have to get rid of an extra character or change the POV or cut/add whole chapters. Here is the video I made for my editors to show them how hard I worked on their notes:

 

Second Pass

The second editing pass shrinks down to line edits. For my book specifically, we’ll be looking at the speech patterns of my foreign speakers. I’ve got an elderly couple who fled Poland during WWII. When they first arrive in New York, their English is limited, but by the end of the novel (which covers several years) their speaking has significantly improved. Well, mostly, because one of them is suffering from dementia, and so I have to show her reverting back to Polish. We’ll also be looking at the other characters, making sure they stay consistent. And, of course, I’ll do a Margie Deep Edits pass to amp up the use of dynamic language.

Third Pass

Yikes. THIS. IS. IT. Unless I find a huge-can’t-believe-we-missed-this kind of plot hole, I won’t be making any changes. This is our final copy edit check for spelling, commas, proper grammar, etc. While I’ve done this kind of pass before sending work out on submission, I’ve never been at this stage FOR REAL. As in, I’m not revising this book any more. I think I will be both elated and incredibly sad at the end of this pass. I don’t know. I’ll have to come back and give an update.

So, there you have it. The three-pass edit. Add it to your routines!

Assembling a Self-Published Book

Over the next two months, I’ll be assembling my newest book, Superhero in the Making, book two in the Adventures of Lewis and Clarke series. (“Superhero Books for Her!”) This will be the fourth time I’ve put a book together to self-publish, so I’m finding patterns and creating checklists.

whyWhere Will You Distribute?

I’ve found that one of the important things you need to know before you begin is which distributors you will use. For instance, while Scrivener (where I write my books) has the capability to create an EPUB file, Smashwords still required a Word document the last time I uploaded a book there in May 2013. Since I want my ebooks to be absolutely identical on any device, and because as of May 2013 all the distributors I used accepted Word files, I found it was easier to create just one file and then make the necessary changes on the copyright page. (As opposed to having a Scrivener EPUB file, a Word file, and an InDesign file and having to remember to make any little edits to all three files, at least this way I only had to remember to make the same edits in two files. We’ll see if I do it differently this time to take advantage of Scrivener creating the EPUB and mobi – for Kindle – files for me. When I created my ebook-only short story, “Superhero in Disguise,” Scrivener helped me format the files fast.)

One thing to love about the free Smashwords Style Guide is that if you are meticulous in following the instructions there, your completed Word file will upload to any of the other distributors as well on the first try. (As of May 2013, I uploaded to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords – who distributed to “everyone else.” I had no problems with B&N’s original “PubIt!” program, but its new NOOK Press messes up my books now, every time. So I now let Smashwords distribute there for me. That will change when I decide to spend the money hiring out my formatting or figure out my NOOK Press problem.)

Incompatible Upgrades

Another thing to consider is whether one of the programs you use has been very recently upgraded and other programs will not work well with it until they upgrade as well. This happened to me in May 2013 with Unexpected Superhero. Between Scrivener, NOOK Press, and an EPUB validator I was using, the Scrivener EPUB file had errors I couldn’t fix when I tried to upload it to NOOK Press. It was frustrating and time-consuming tracking down the problem, trying potential solutions, and eventually having to abandon my upload and have Smashwords distribute it. But these things happen and you need to go with the flow. (Again, unless you hire a professional formatter.)

Since my husband used to be a graphic designer and owns several professional programs, and I’ve done some newsletters using Quark Xpress, I decided to go that route for my print books. My husband and I created a template in Quark for my first book, Little Miss Lovesick, and I uploaded the final file as a PDF to CreateSpace. Again, plan for the unexpected. I couldn’t get Quark to create the PDF even though it was an option for the software. Turns out a lot of people were having the same problem. I finally had to send the file out to have it converted. Of course, then I had a PDF that I couldn’t change. Why was that a problem if my book was already printed?

A Professional Print Version

Yup, found a few typos. When I created the ebook files, I corrected any little things I saw as they came up – without thinking about it. Meaning, I didn’t make identical changes to the Quark file, which is why I mentioned above, be aware of how many separate files you have to change if you find a typo. And now, because I couldn’t get Quark to create a PDF for me, I could make my edits but would have to send the file out to be converted to PDF every time, forever. My husband and I started talking about upgrades and – voila! I got an email from Adobe about their Creative Cloud suite. Instead of purchasing the software and upgrading every year or two, you could pay a monthly subscription fee and always have access to the latest version. Not only that, you have access to every piece of Adobe software (that I’m aware of). Because my husband and I both use more than one piece of Adobe software, the monthly Creative Cloud membership seemed perfect for us.

So for my second book, I used Adobe InDesign. LOVE. IT. I sent out my Little Miss Lovesick Quark file to Nick Davies at Tinstar Design and he quickly converted it to InDesign for me for a very reasonable price. I made my minor edits in the new file and it was ready to re-upload. I also took that Lovesick file and created a master template for my future books, which I then used for Unexpected Superhero. Now my print books all have the same look every time. Definitely the professional way to go.

Writing SmileyChecklists Save Time

During the last 2 1/2 years, I’ve continued to make notes about what I do, how I do it, and what order to do it. For instance, in your print version, if you add the header in the master section so that it appears on every page, then manually delete the header from the first pages of chapters, then go through every line of the book taking out words that are split/hyphenated to the next line, it will change the way the text flows and…wait for it…your manually deleted headers will sometimes be on the wrong page. Sigh. Then you have to re-do the header.

Yes, I learned that by doing it. 😉

So now with Superhero in the Making, I’ll take my newest checklist and begin working down it in order. Any time I find something not working right, I’ll make a note of how to fix it and, if necessary, change the order of steps in my checklist. Until I decide to send out my book files to a professional formatter, this is an effective way to get my books printed so that they look absolutely professional, and I’m not re-inventing the process every time. I haven’t looked into the prices of professional formatters or know who’s the best at a reasonable price because I genuinely enjoy the book-building process. But someday I may have to let go of this part in order to get more writing done and more books out.

I hope this has been helpful to you. If so, let me know and I’ll try to post more on this topic in the future. I’ll be teaching a self-publishing how-to class online in September that you may find useful as well. I’ll let you know the details soon. Happy Self-Publishing!

Marketing in the New Year

business planMy writing focus has changed a lot in the past year. Whereas before I was all about production and learning how to write a novel…and countless pep talks to stick with it, this year I’ve got to add marketing maven to my author resume.  (Because, YAY! I’ve got a book coming out in JUNE!)

Fortunately, I’ve been preparing! We here at Routines for Writers are all about setting routines to help make our writing—or marketing—easier.

For years I’ve been collecting book-marketing advice so that I would be ready once my time came. And my time came at the end of 2013.

As I work on my goals for this year, I’ve realized the first half of the year is pretty much laid out for me, give or take. I start with my release date and work backwards, filling in all the items I plan to do.

Toastmasters

Knowing that I will have a launch party June 3, I signed up for Toastmasters to help me take the edge off my nerves. By the time I get to my launch, I’ll have several speeches under my belt.

What I didn’t account for was being invited to participate in my local indie’s big YA event this month on the 25th! Fortunately, I’ll be one of 12 authors and I won’t have much “screen time.” It will be a nice easing-in to the local YA community. Note: This opportunity came about because I went in early to introduce myself to the children’s book buyer. I was nervous, but she was amazingly supportive–and set me to work right away ;). Marketing tip: don’t put off talking to your local bookstore people.

But, Hello! I’m going to need something to hand out!

Postcards

Since I don’t have any ARCs or even a sample chapter (my book is currently in editorial; I’m biting my fingernails down), I ordered postcards. 1000 of them. And 200 stickers inviting people to my release party. I was expecting to order these later, but it will be nice to have something in my purse to hand out when people find out I’m an author.

Newsletter

My first personal author newsletter goes out tonight. My subscriber base is small and loyal, aka—made up of a few of my friends. My goal is to get to 100 people by my launch date. I have no idea if this goal is too small or too large, but it’s the goal I set. (Help me get to 100! Go sign up at ShonnaSlayton.com.)

Videos

I write for YA, and not necessarily the adults who read YA, but the actual teens. If I want to catch their attention I need video. So far, my author blog has been aimed at fellow homeschool parents/ teachers because they are my current tribe. When I announced to my friends about my book deal—they were all adults! Granted, most are parents, and their kids are or will be my target market. Eventually, I’ll need to transition to my actual teen audience. I think video is the way to go. Here’s my first:

 
http://youtu.be/6es3hRXjCjo

Social Media

In the past few months I’ve joined Pinterest (Love it! I avoided it because I was afraid I’d get hooked, and I have.) For better or worse, I’ve made the decision to stick with a Facebook profile instead of creating a page. And, I’ve got an author photo in place of my statue-girl avatar!

The Other Marketing Plans

Other marketing plans will take shape as the months go by. I’ll be staying flexible and keeping my calender open. I believe my publisher has plans for a blog tour and some giveaways and there are some other things I’d like to try to engage with my audience.

How about you? What is your best tip for marketing? Planning for marketing? Or even setting up a routine for marketing?

Shonna’s Book Deal!

Shonna’s Cinderella's DressYA novel, CINDERELLA’S DRESS, is scheduled for publication June 3, 2014 with Entangled TEEN.

 

confetti cannon——–*confetti* *confetti* *confetti* *confetti* *confetti*

 

Entangled Publishing is a relatively new publishing company but they are taking the book world by storm. They love getting books into the hands of readers and they like to have a good time while doing so :). They are going to publish both a print and a digital version of my book. And they make me feel like I’m in a bit of a fairy tale myself, right now.

If you’ve been a long-time reader at RFW you know a bit about the backstory on this book. Because, yes, if I ever alluded to a novel’s journey, it was most likely about Cinderella’s Dress. Blood. Sweat. Tears.

I am grateful for the encouragement this blog gave me to persevere. I’m especially grateful for Kitty and Stephanie who introduced me to NaNoWriMo. At first I thought they were crazy to try to write 50,000 words in one month. Then I learned there were a WHOLE BUNCH of crazy people out there trying to write 50,000 words in a month. Then I became a crazy person myself. Thank you NaNoWriMo!

So, I know. Blah, blah, blah. Give us the numbers. You writers are so pushy. Here you go:

First Draft: November 2008 during NaNoWriMo.
Started Querying: August 2010—querying agents/revising/querying/revising…you get the idea
Total queries: 28 (this seems low to me; I think it was more, but since I stopped querying a year ago I’ve misplaced the master list. I’ll update if I find it. It sure felt like I was sending it to everyone and their dog.)
Total partials: 3
Total fulls: 3
Revise & Resubmits: 1
Total offers of rep: 0 (Yes, I am still unagented)
TOTAL PUBLISHING CONTRACTS: 1

Entangled Publishing path:
Learned
about their teen line at SCBWI-AZ conference Oct 2012
Submitted Oct 20, 2012
Got past the interns (Bless you interns!) and was put into their new “submitable” manuscript tracking software March 2013 (Where you are guaranteed a response within 30 days–yay/nay/need more time)
Request for more time April 2013
Offer extended June 2013 (Secret family celebration with ice-cream cake courtesy of supportive husband!)
Contract signed November 2013
Years from first draft to published novel: if all goes well, 5.5

Literary racehorse, I am not.

I don’t know if these stats will encourage you or depress you! It reminds me of when I was single and my girlfriends and I would insist we didn’t need a lot of men, we each needed only one good man! Well, my book needed one good publisher, and it has one now.

In conclusion, and in the spirit of all the pep talks I’ve written for this blog: Slow and steady wins the race. Or, for you sci-fi folks: Never give up. Never surrender.

Blog notes: Kitty and I keep going back and forth about keeping this blog running. We both have our own websites now and Stephanie is still busy with school. If you want to stay in-the-know with this book, you can follow my twitter feed https://twitter.com/ShonnaSlayton or sign up for my newsletter on my blog: shonnaslayton.com

Little Miss Lovesick Is In Print!

Finally!! LOL!!

I’ve been waiting to share this news with you for years! When Stephanie and Shonna and I started 2012, we each picked an area we wanted to discuss for the year, and mine was self-publishing. Now I have officially self-published a book in digital form and print form. Yay!

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Little Miss Lovesick for yourself and/or give it to friends or family for Christmas, I have my own CreateSpace store page up now. You can see the book’s description and order copies and generally cheer that I finally made it! 🙂

I wrote a post on my web site with fun bits of trivia about how Little Miss Lovesick came to be. You might enjoy reading that, too. 🙂

From more of a writerly standpoint, I thought I’d share a few publishing details here for my last regular post on Routines for Writers.

  • I’ve thought about self-publishing long enough that I decided, if I was going to do it, I was going to set myself up as my own micropublishing company. I filed a DBA (also known as a fictitious business name), bought a block of 100 ISBN numbers, registered my company name rather than my own name with self-publishing sites like Kindle Direct Publishing, PubIt! (Barnes & Noble), Smashwords, CreateSpace, etc., and I asked John to make a logo for us. I’m also going to join the Independent Book Publishers Association with my 2013 budget.
  •  I bought a lot of ebooks and paper books to help me learn how to self-publish my books. If I had continued to use Word to format my book, Aaron Shepard’s Perfect Pages would have been the most useful. But since I decided to go a more professional route (for one thing, my husband John is a former graphic designer, has all the software, and I’ve used some of it before), Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual Vol 1 and Vol 2 have been the most helpful so far.
  • Aaron Shepard has two other books that I bought, but have only skimmed, that I think will be useful in helping me figure out how to promote my books better, how to help them be more discoverable. They are Aiming at Amazon and POD for Profit.
  • Going to the Self-Publishers Online Conference was also a big help. Lots of good information there, and super nice, helpful people. They also suggested a few more books and web sites, but I haven’t gone through all that material yet.
  • I bought a photo from Dreamstime.com and John (former graphic designer, remember? lucky me!) played with it in Photoshop and Illustrator to create the full cover for both the ebook and the print book.
  • John owns QuarkXPress 7.2, a professional desktop publishing program, and I’ve used it to create newsletters in the past so I was familiar with the basics of how to use it. For both of these reasons – but particularly the “professional” part – we used it to create the interior layout. HOWEVER, we had problems getting the program to create a pdf (needed to upload to CreateSpace or Lightning Source or just about any print company). It crashed every time. So I had to send the file out to Staples and they were awesome! But now, because we need to upgrade John’s Photoshop and Illustrator programs for future book covers, we are going to buy Adobe InDesign as part of the Creative Suite. Interestingly, one of their “top 10 reasons you should switch from Quark” is that it will create pdf files quickly and easily. I hope so.
  • There are two options on CreateSpace (Amazon’s print self-publishing arm) for proofing your book, the digital proof and the print proof. I am a former magazine editor who used to use both to be sure we had the most perfect copy of our magazine we could manage, so I used both this time, too. (It takes about a week or so longer to wait for the print proof before approving the file.) I did find some errors, so I’m glad I took the time.

Those are the highlights of what I did over the last year. I hope you find it useful in your own journey.

As I mentioned, this is my last regular post. We’ll be posting irregularly from now till June. (Our web hosting is paid till then.) I’ll continue to post a couple times a week on my own web site, letting you know what is happening with my books, and writing silly things like my Netflix Picks column. 🙂

Stephanie will post when she’s not crazy busy with school. And at the end, you’ll hear from all three of us saying goodbye to you. Meanwhile, we hope you have a fabulous holiday season, and happy writing! 🙂

Printing Books and Saying Goodbye

Hi friends! As you know, I’ve been working hard on getting more books written and self-published. Very exciting times for me! For the last year, I’ve expected to have to say goodbye to you here on Routines for Writers, and that goodbye is swiftly approaching. My last weekly post will be in two weeks.

But that just means you can visit me at a new location! Yay! My web site is at http://kittybucholtz.com/ and I’ll keep you updated on the new books I have coming out, as well as talk about funny things like what I’ve watched on Netflix, and interesting things like brain science. I hope you decide to come visit me there. (I’ll miss you if you don’t!)

This past week I’ve been working on the interior design of the print version of Little Miss Lovesick. At first, it was daunting to the point of not even wanting to start! Since it’s my first time putting a book into print, I was a bundle of nerves, afraid the whole process would be so time-consuming because of my learning curve that I would not only never finish it, but I would’ve wasted all that time I could’ve been writing. Funny what fear can do to you!

But my awesome husband sat me down at his computer where he has Quark Xpress and he opened the file he’d created for my book (he used to be a graphic designer). He showed me how to use a few key commands, and I started editing. I found a couple dozen punctuation changes I wanted to make, but only a few words that were missing or mistaken. After I finished the copy edit, I did a bunch of other little things like –

  • changing the justification to fully justified
  • making each chapter start on a new page, with the chapter heading partway down the page
  • deleting the headers from the first page of every chapter
  • making the first word of every chapter all caps
  • adding an icon to each scene break (a little fish since the heroine meets the hero on a fishing trip)
  • moving most of the hyphenated words to the next line so the pages look cleaner
  • updating the copyright page for the print version
  • and getting John’s help making the title page look attractive

If you’re doing any self-publishing, keep the above list as a starting place on formatting your print version. You may add some more items to your list, as I may over time. But it’s a helpful place to start.

Whew! It was a huge amount of work, but the inside of the book looks great! Now I just have to write the back cover copy and help John finish the full book cover. Then it will be ready to put up for sale at Amazon!! Woo-hooo!! I can’t wait!!

I’ll let you know when it’s available for sale in print. I’m trying to have it ready by Thanksgiving, but it may be the first week of December. (It’s already available as an ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and many more online retailers.) If I have any tips about the cover or any of the “getting your first book into print” issues, I’ll tell you about them over the next couple weeks. Meanwhile, have an awesome week! See you on my web site! 🙂

Juggling My Options

         Argh! I did it again. I thought all my “plates” were juggling in sync only to watch in dismay as some come crashing toward the floor. This week’s blog post is one of them. (My upcoming algebra test and English Comp paper are others.)

          As you may have surmised from Kitty’s post on Monday, we are discussing options this week (within the broader topic of Taking Control of our writing life). Every one of us has options. At times our options seem limited, but usually those limits can also point to new possibilities and opportunities. Such is the case in the publishing world at this time. This article by David Vinjamuri on the rising use of epublishing is full of examples and references to the different opportunities available to authors today and the shifting business models those options are creating. I hope it is as interesting and encouraging to you as it was to me.

          Now, please excuse me while I go catch my “plates” and toss them back into the air.

What Are My Options?

One of the big questions in every area of life is – what are my options? How do I want my hamburger cooked, what do I want on my pizza, how do I like my coffee – the smaller questions. What will I do for a living, how can I make ends meet until the work brings in the money, which of several directions should I take to get there – the bigger questions. (Why am I here, what is God’s plan for me, where will I go when I die – the most important questions, but not directly related to writing. 🙂 )

In writing, I’ve asked myself if I want to write fiction or nonfiction, business articles or romances, romantic comedies or superhero books with a romantic thread. While I like each of these ideas and many more, I have learned in life that you have to focus first to get started in any new endeavor. You can spread yourself thinner later. So I published a few nonfiction pieces, then focused on romance.

I went to Christian writers conferences in the early years because those were the writer friends I was hanging around. I got close enough that I was getting phone calls from an editorial assistant at Tyndale House, but I was writing just enough out of step that we could never quite get my work to run along on their track. Things never worked out.

A friend introduced me to her agent and soon I had representation. Surely my big break! It seemed the right thing to do was to continue with the romantic comedies (called chick lit at that moment, but shhh, don’t say that phrase any more). My agent and I talked about different things I could try when chick lit died. I chose not to pursue an opportunity with a Christian publisher who pays tiny advances. I was too insecure to try writing YA when my agent suggested it. I could see I had options, and – right or wrong – I made the best choices I could.

After four and a half years, I talked to my agent and decided to walk away. I was trying to do what I felt she wanted me to do, but my creativity was drying up by trying so hard. I needed a break. I’d been thinking about going to grad school for years, so when the opportunity came up, I took it. It was so beyond different from what I expected, not challenging at all, that I complained for a long time about what a waste of time it was.

But over the last couple of months, I remembered that I do have options. I can choose to live with disappointment over my grad school work, or focus on what I learned from it. For instance, I learned that I can write YA! I got some extraordinary feedback on a YA story I wrote. More excellent feedback on a spiritual dystopia/urban fantasy I wrote for my final project. And after flying to last year’s RWA National Conference the morning after my last class, and hearing a couple more editors tell me they weren’t sure they could sell my work, I knew I had another option.

I came home from that conference and decided, as an experiment, I was going to self-publish Little Miss Lovesick, the book my agent almost sold to two houses before chick lit died. When the process went a bit smoother than I expected, I considered my options again. I could keep trying to write and pitch my work to the current establishment, or I could start my own business again. The idea of running my own publishing company got my endorphins dancing.

One option that worked out for me was choosing to get involved in two self-published anthologies. The first one, Romancing the Pages, will come out in September as an ebook – see the lovely cover here. My superhero short story “Hero in Disguise” is one of nineteen short stories I hope you enjoy. In a few months, another anthology will be published with a dozen or so short stories written by my friends in my Sydney writer’s group. Another group of stories I think you’ll enjoy. My “Rescue at Loon Lake” is a fun little precursor to my novel Love at the Fluff and Fold.

It’s been a heck of a year. Several moves, several deaths, more months of unemployment than paid work between John and me, a lot of trials and testing. Career-wise, the worst part for me has been not being able to follow-through on my goals, my commitments to myself that I made end of last year. I’d planned to get Little Miss Lovesick into print by Christmas, finish and self-publish Love at the Fluff and Fold digitally and in print by March, and have the next book out in September.

Due to the weight of life this year, I’ve thought about sending my work to other publishers, let them do some of the work in return for some of the monetary rewards. I know I have options. Maybe giving myself a little break would help. It’s an awful lot of work to do all of the publishing work yourself. Several wise men in the Bible have said to count the costs before you start building so you don’t wind up broke, half-finished, and a laughingstock. I think I know the costs of continuing down my current path, and I’m willing to pay them.

I’ll continue to try to keep my options in mind at least once a year so I can adjust my course as necessary. It’s a good writing routine to have. In fact, because I love teaching and miss doing it more, I’m going to offer my Goal Setting and Time Management for Writers class again in January. We’ll start bright and early on the first Monday in January and get our ducks in a row for the coming year. I’ll remind you again when you can start signing up.

Whatever is going on in your life and your writing career, remember that you have options. Some will be better than others, but rarely is “I had no choice” true. What are some of your options?