28 Comments

The Hard Truth

I had a different topic to talk about today, but that can wait. I have important stuff to tell you guys. In a nutshell:

I’ve decided to postpone releasing Monster Inside Me for at least a year. Maybe longer.

This has nothing to do with my personal life. Everything on that front is good. This has to do with me and my skill level as an author.

Up until last year, all my knowledge of writing came from what I read (fiction and non-fiction craft stuff) and from what I’ve naturally absorbed about story through other mediums like movies. Besides MIM, I’ve written a draft for another novel and started a some of others that remain unfinished. I’ve learned lots of other things, but it’s not all coming together quite right. Basically, “I’m not cookies.” I’m still mushy dough. If I published MIM the way it is now, it wouldn’t be bad, but would probably peak at good.

When you’re passionate about something, you want the finished product to be awesome and life changing for all who experience it. I’m passionate about storytelling and the way I’ve chosen to tell those stories are through books. I’m not trying to write a good book. I’m trying to write a book that gives readers the same feeling they got when they read Harry Potter. I’d like to be memorable and talked about years later like The Empire Strikes Back.

I know success like this is rare. I picked these examples on purpose because regardless of the odds, stories like those are the bar. And you better believe I aim to get as close to that bar as I can. Right now, I’m far, far away from that goal.

So, did I suddenly wake up and realize I wasn’t ready? No, I had help from my buddies Kait and Susan. You heard right, they convinced me to postpone my book and I still call them my buddies.

Last week I sent them a newly written first chapter. I knew it wasn’t perfect, but the plan was to use their feedback to fix it up and then make revising the rest of the book easier. Boy, did that not work out at all how I thought! If I didn’t have a thick skin for criticism, all I’d have read from their nice and constructive feedback would’ve been, “This sucks and come to think of it, you do too.” What they really said was, “You’ve got something here with potential, but you’re not ready to deliver it.”

I have a lot of respect for these ladies. Probably more than they realize and it’s because they’ve done what I want to do. They wrote the awesome book, built the following and now have agents. Even if this isn’t your ultimate career path, the point is, they have options. It’s no small feat to get to their level. It took much work and determination to get there and it’s where I want to be.  Well, I’m in luck, because they want to help.

My assignment, which I HAVE to accept, (Seriously, Kait said there’d be pain if I didn’t) is to write more and read more.

On the reading front, I’m going to focus more on the genre I want to be in. Fantasy. I tend to lean towards modern fantasy, like urban, but I don’t want be exclusively there.

As for writing, I’m going to pull out something I wrote years ago from the vaults of Mocete Studios. This wasn’t the original plan, but after a chat with Susan, I sent her the first chapter. I just wanted an overall opinion to compare with MIM. I was surprised when she said this new chapter was better than the MIM one, but after reading her notes, the light bulb went off.

The old story, I wrote whatever felt right according to the loose outline I had. I’m not saying I’m an intuitive genius or anything, but I’m betting more of the things I’m naturally good at are in the old story. MIM was in part a challenge to myself to write a story unlike the way I was used to. I think in some ways, it was forced. So, rather than beat that to death, I’ll go back to a story that plays to my strengths. And when I return to MIM, when I’m ready, I’ll be able to make it the book it should be.

So that’s where we’re are at Mocete Studios. Never could’ve predicted it, but I quite excited for the direction I’m going. Now I know how the Cylons felt. Plans are AWESOME.

The online writing community seems to move at ludicrous speed and it’s easy to get caught up in the rush. A lot of friends I’ve made last year are gearing up to put out their books and here am not even close. I’ll be honest, I’m incredibly happy for them, but at the same time feel like a total loser. And if you’re feeling that way too, it’s okay you because the truth is, you’re no more loser than I am. The only way you’ll truly lose if if you give up.

You see, readers are out there waiting for something awesome to read. And even when the next big thing isn’t so big anymore, you can count on awesome to still be going strong. It might be upsetting to take a few steps back, but you have to always keep in mind what you’re working towards. You keep that in mind and what you can do to get there. Figure out your strengths and use them to beat your weaknesses into submission. And most important of all:

Be honest with yourself.

Because if you’re not cookies when you come out of the oven, you won’t taste right.

28 comments on “The Hard Truth

  1. I remember feeling really frustrated last year because everyone seemed so far ahead of me. I wanted to do so much, but I wasn’t working at the speed I liked, I kept aiming at impossible perfection, and I couldn’t work out where I was going wrong even though it was me blocking myself. That’s why comparing yourself basically holds you back; it slows you down and makes you work in a way that doesn’t feel right. But it’s all part of the learning process that everyone has to go through. Sometimes people have a successful book before they hit that panicky uh-oh moment where they realise they have to rethink what they’re doing because it just isn’t working.

    There’s no shame or failure about that, it just happens. Passion is important, but so is patience. It isn’t a race, no matter how much it feels like it sometimes. Good luck with the new/old story, Andrew. Keep reading (reading “bad” books with a critical eye can be more helpful than enjoying the awesome), keep writing what YOU want to read, and remember that giving up is not an option. 😉

  2. As you said Andrew, the indie world is moving with frightening speed, and to be able to stick to your guns and pull yourself back and focus on getting everything right first time shows more than just character and intelligence but a true passion for what you are going to present us with.

    Good luck with everything, and I cannot wait for MIM to hit the shelves.

  3. Hey Andrew!

    I recently finished reading an awesome book, and the first thing I thought was:
    “F**k! That girl can write!”
    and the second thing I thought was:
    “F**k! I’m terrible!”

    She’s delicious warm cookie, and I’m just something in the oven.

    But you know what? That’s okay. That’s just the way it goes. There are two things you learn fast in this business: you need to have a thick skin and lots of patience.

    I’ve the philosophy that if you’re honest with yourself and humble enough to learn, you’ll be fine. It’s just a matter of time.

    Big hug, Andrew! All the good vibes to you! 😉

  4. First off, the fact that you have friends willing to be honest with you, and kind about it too, is amazing and wonderful.

    Secondly, because of this post (and really because of pretty much everything you put out there), I believe in you and trust you. The fact that you see you aren’t ready yet shows not only guts, but a deep understanding of yourself and your skill level. That means that whatever you do put out is going to be awesome.

    Things are moving along at fast speed, but when you’re ready, you will know.

  5. This is great! Go YOU!

    You’ve said some really important things here. You could’ve taken K and S’s advice and thrown fits but instead chose to see it for what it was and rise to the challenge. I can’t wait to see the final product when you’re ready to release it. MIM will rock.

  6. The upshot is that as long as you do homework, I’ll provide CHOCOLATE! 😀

    Seriously though, there is totally no reason to call yourself a loser if you happened to start the race later than some of us who are further along the course. Think of it more like golf than a race. The point is not how FAST you finish the course compared to other people. It’s about how good your SCORE is compared to them (with score meaning your grasp of craft and language and the zillion other mechanics of writing awesome books).

    You’re making a really responsible, professional decision for your career and I’m proud of you. You’ll get there. 😀 Now go do your homework!

  7. When I decided to get serious, I went looking for a writing buddy. I went to a bunch of groups, blogs, etc, where people had work or offered work and were asking for feedback. And now you know: I can give of the feedback. With every critique I gave I tried to be kind but thorough. I put in a lot of time, tried to explain my notes, offered suggestions. Usually, if I got any response at all, I got excuses and defensiveness, and the general feeling that these people didn’t want honesty or my help, they just wanted me to like it.

    Kait was different. Not only was her ability much more mature than what I had been reading, but she took my criticism and thanked me for it. Used it to make changes. And she returned the favor by giving me the honest feedback I’d been craving. Finally, I had found someone I knew I could work with. Over the past, what, five years or so, my relationship with Kait has improved my writing more than all other factors of my life combined. No lie. My writing wouldn’t be where it is–I might not even bother trying anymore–if we hadn’t found each other.

    Finding you is like finding Kait again in the way that I can see the spark, in your willingness admit that you have things to work on, and to just get going working on them so you can get better already, be more awesomer, and get some really good stories out there. And I have so much respect for that.

    I ❤ you muchly. You know this. And it was a very hard thing for me to feel like I might be risking our friendship by being wholly honest with you. In the end both Kait and I knew that we owed you the truth and had to trust you to be able to accept what you'd asked for. I'm very grateful that you could, and it makes me ❤ you muchly more. May I always get to be Fandrew #1.

    For anyone else reading my very personal letter to Andrew that I'm putting on his freakin' blog for some reason, I'll say that he has great ideas and above average execution. If you follow me, you know that I don't believe in self-publishing anything less than what I'd try to sell to NY. I think that's what we owe the readers, and I want them to get the best Andrew they can get. I'm touched that he thinks enough of me to give a rat's ass what I have to say.

  8. Andrew, you are inspiring. Seriously. I think it’s wonderful that you are taking the time to perfect the craft before rushing into the publishing world. You are able to take constructive criticism and produce a game plan instead of running and hiding in the corner or publishing way too soon just to say you’re published. Good for you!

    Whatever you do, keep going. I want to read your book when it’s time. 🙂

  9. @Claire- Yeah, it’s still kind of my default action to look at everyone else and compare, but it doesn’t last and I get myself on track.

    I’ve been looking over new/old story because it’s a completed draft and there’s a lot of good stuff in it. I’m excited to dive back in with more knowledge and a better plan.

    @Alex- Thanks a lot, Alex. I wish I could bring something in the world sooner, but it wouldn’t be fair because I’d know it wasn’t my best. Thankfully, Susan and Kait won’t let me off the hook until I meet their standards.

    @Natalie- That’s the key; being honest with yourself. If you want to be as good as the book you read, then you have to learn why hers worked at what yours is lacking. Sometimes you can evaluate on your own, but other times you need help.

    @Nina- Thanks, Nina. Trust is not easy to earn, so I appreciate having yours. And thanks for the vote of confidence. Most of the world has no clue who I am and when I’m ready to put something out, I want to reward the risk people are taking by bringing the awesome.

  10. you are very lucky to have found such good, honest friends. Best of luck to you.

  11. @Wulfie- I’ll be honest, there was a moment that reminded me of a Simpsons episode. Lisa had just told Homer something sure to make him flip, but in order to contain it, he put a space helmet on before yelling. I was almost there, but then I looked at what they wrote and then what I wrote. They were right. Plain and simple.

    I’m thinking Kait and Susan will be super famous when my book comes out, so I can print their seal of approval on my cover.

    @Kait- And I thought having you say, “This. What you wrote young one, is good.” would be reward enough, but I get chocolate too? Bonus!

    I never realized my lack of plan until I realized I lacked a plan. Now I’m more excited than ever to get cracking and show you what I can do.

    @Susan- I tell my wife all the time how amazing I think it is that I met you and Kait. Because the whole progression was pretty natural.

    I popped up on your blog, then on Twitter. We chatted, had some laughs and never once did it come up to have you read anything of mine. After a while it was kind of like, “Are you going to send me something or what?” And just like your experience with Kait, meeting you two was just what I needed at the right time. That’s the best story of all.

    @Tiffany- Thanks, Tiffany! As I said to Nina, I truly value anyone willing to put their faith in me with nothing to back it up except for me being me.

  12. @everyone- I’d like to direct you all to Susan’s comment where she says about me, ” . . . he has great ideas and above average execution.”

    And that’s with me sucking. (My word, not hers)

    Since I don’t plan on sending anything worse than that first chapter of MIM, imagine the possibilities. Hehe.

  13. This may sound funny but Romance Writers of America is not just for women. There are men who belong to the organization because they offer some of the best and least expensive workshops depending on your genre. The FFnP online chapter is for fantasy and futuristic writers. They offer workshops for your genre which may help you in your writing. It is also one of the few writers organizations which does not require you to be published before you can join.

    Good luck on your plan.

  14. Andrew, this post just made me admire you even more. And, for the record, you are NOT a loser, by any stretch of the word! I am so happy that Kait and Susan are working with you. They are not only extremely talented, but also two of the sweetest people you could meet.

    I could not agree with you more about the speed of the indie community. it actually stressed me out at first. I had never written a novel before MOAM and when I didn’t make my first publication deadline I felt small, weak and extremely untalented, because although I loved the story, it wasn’t the best that it could be. I knew that. And all the while people were writing and publishing like 20 novels each and every month (okay, maybe not that many, but in my stressed out little head, that’s what it seemed like).

    I had watched my writing grow over the past year and a half and knew it could be better. Four rewrites later, I’m almost ready to release it to the world. So guess what? I stopped worrying so much about when When WHEN I would get the story out and focused on how much better each sentence, and each chapter could be. And while I realize not every reader will love my book, I want every reader to respect me as a writer.

    We all move at our own pace and, as Kait said, it’s not about who finishes first, but the overall score. You have talent, you have support and above all, you have passion. These, my friend, are the ingredients to success.

    Best of luck on your writing journey! I will be on the sidelines cheering you along the entire way.

    P.S. thanks for all the cookie talk – I totally *need* one now 🙂

  15. Very inspiring post, Andrew, and I admire and applaud your honesty. I am light years behind everyone on ROW80, and at times I feel like a total loser; I felt a real shiver of recognition in your post. You are most definitely not a loser, and with a great team of Kait and Susan working for and with you, you will get to the awesome work that you will put out for everyone to read, enjoy, and be changed by.

    You have to go with your heart, gut, instinct, soul, whatever you care to call it, and only when it feels right. I will be looking forward to reading your work whenever it gets baked. And I, for one, hope that I will have your amount of self-knowledge to know when I baked enough for public consumption.

    Best of luck, and look at all these cheerleaders you have!

  16. I don’t know HOW I missed this post! I’m so sorry for waiting so long to comment, but I honestly didn’t see the email until today. I’ll have to use the excuse that I got it right after I got back into town.

    I can’t say that I’m not disappointed. And I know that I would probably be perfectly happy with what you’ve written already because I’m not very critical…I just love to be entertained. But Kait and Susan are awesome and what they put out is as close to perfection as I’ve ever seen with any writers, including traditionally published. And if you’re striving for their awesomeness, then you should listen to them. When I read Kait’s latest, Red, I was blown away. The story stayed with me for days after I read it. That’s really hard to achieve. And it sounds like that’s what you want. You just might be one of those rare authors that achieve it.

  17. @Linda- Thanks so much for the info! I had no idea. I’ll definitely check that out.

    @Lisa- You know, back when I saw all the books you were planning to publish, plus the detailed release schedule, I was thinking, “Maybe one day, I can be like that.” And I know you’ve got tons of people waiting for MOAM, so it must’ve been tough to postpone, but an all around better decision.

    Thanks for all the nice stuff you said. I’m glad I’ve got all the ingredients to success. Now how the hell am I going to mix this crap?

    @Nancy- I’m so glad you commented. I thought about keeping all this to myself, but if anyone was feeling what I was feeling, I wanted them to know they weren’t alone.

    I’ll give a few suggestions (If you’re not already aware): read both the storyfix and Kristen Lamb’s blog.

    Storyfix has great articles on craft that go into the nuts and bolts story. Not HOW to, but the building blocks any story will need to achieve awesome. Once you get accustomed to these elements, you’ll see that they really are in every movie/TV show or book out there.

    He’s also written an excellent book, called Story Engineering, that goes into more detail.

    Kristen is an expert on social media for writers, but on Mondays, she talks craft. She’s pretty hilarious about showing her readers what they’re doing wrong and how to improve.

    And finally, Susan’s Blueprint is eighty or so questions that can help you flesh out a novel. By the time the time you get through it, you’ll know what works, what isn’t and what needs more development.

    Don’t give up.

    @LL- No need to apologize, this is the blog “that knows you have a life.”

    What you said about Red, is exactly how I felt after I finished. It’s Kait’s best. I’m totally prepared to do whatever I have to to get myself there. I’ll make sure it’s worth the wait.

  18. Thank you so much for the links and the encouragement. I will go read the links and go forth back into the fray. Your comments are very much appreciated!

  19. Andrew, you are such a great guy… What a brilliant and brave post. Good for you.

    I’ve also been dismayed at the speed in the indie community. Some folks have backlists that they’ve been working on for years that are ready for publication, but most don’t. I’ve watched authors bang out novels, edit them, and publish them at breakneck speed, and when I look at samples, I can tell that they were published much too quickly. There’s a lack of polish or professionalism or something somewhere, and at least to another writer, it really shows.

    I don’t want to write those books. In fact, I’m most likely going to delay publication of my sequel because I don’t want to rush it. I know it’s not a cookie yet, and I don’t want to publish dough. Well, not unless it’s stirred into ice cream.

    It’s a marathon, not a sprint. When the book is ready, you’ll know.

    Here’s to stories that leave our readers breathless with anticipation for the next book. 🙂

    • I’m starting to view the speed of the writing community as an illusion of speed. It’s going fast because everyone’s doing what we want. In the literal sense, if someone’s releasing ten books to your one, then they’re going faster. But as you said, it’s not about that, it’s abut the quality.

      Yes, I agree, let’s leave our readers breathless with anticipation.

  20. […] to a Ready To Go To The Next Level, um, level. And I had an image of the talent I had. Then came the hard truth that there was more work to […]

  21. […] was thinking about all this in light of my new writing direction and how much happier I am now than before my “perfect” plan was ruined. Funny how that […]

  22. […] a hard time coming up with goals. Writing my debut doesn’t seem practical since I’m not ready for that yet and I don’t when I’ll be ready. There are a few things I know I need to do to get […]

  23. […] And in case you want the full story of why these are my goals, click here. […]

  24. […] And in case you want the full story of why these are my goals, click here. […]

  25. […] thought about what I tried to accomplish last year; writing something I could publish. For a lot of reasons that didn’t happen and that was okay because I ended up with renewed and more focused drive toward my […]

  26. […] the year since the hard truth, I’ve tried to put everything I’ve learned about story structure into this one and […]

  27. […] while back Susan and Kait broke it to me that my writing needed more work. They were a little worried I’d get discouraged by their advice, but that’s not […]

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