Musings 1/1/15 ~ It’s 2015. So now what? Or Writing the Way I See It Part II.

Happy New Year, all!  OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s discuss the end of 2014 and what’s may or may not happen in 2015.

So I made a promise to myself – not a resolution!  I promised myself that I would officially retire from the business if I didn’t get traditionally published this year.  Hey, I’m old.  I have to think at one point well, this is obviously not going to happen after a certain time.  I just chose this time to be now – well December 31st at any rate.

I’ve been keeping this to myself until I was sure of everything but now, I think I’ll just let everyone know what is going on with my quest to go the traditional route.

But first, something else that’s kind of bothering me.  Or more accurately – I’m so confused.  Has anyone seen this article on Publisher’s Weekly by Jennifer McCartney concerning Sophie Jackson and her work, A Pound of Flesh?  The link leads to the article itself.

Yes, my fellow authors it’s happened again!  Someone wrote fan-fiction based on Twilight and Simon and ( “Hey, we know a money maker when we see it!” )  Shuster grabbed it up.

Here another link to an article in case you wish to see more:
Twilight-based fan fiction promised the same literary success as 50 Shades of Grey

OK, am I the only one who wants to write a forty chapter fan-fiction and make not just money – but a sh**load of money?  All right, no, I’m not in it for the money – well I want to get paid, but I truly love writing.  I have mentioned before that I’ve been writing since I was five (take that Paolini) and started on the road to publication when I was fourteen, when a friend stopped me in the cafeteria line and pressed a newspaper clipping into my palm.  
Unfortunately it was from one of our favorite scam publishers (neither of us knew that of course) and that was enough for me.  For a few years I’d been writing short-stories for my friends and teachers with them as the main characters.  They loved them and my English teacher and her university professor husband became my mentors.  It was very encouraging to have someone tell me, I think you’re good enough to be published.  I wrote my first book in three months. 

Of course it never a steady thing for me.  Life often and very brutally got in the way but when I could I wrote.  I was bound and determined to see my work in print.  Now mind you this is before e-books, Kindle and smart phones.  Hell this was before the internet (Yes, I’ve said it before, I’m old) so if you wanted to see publication you wrote snail-mail letters to publishers to obtain their guidelines, including an SASE of course.  Writer’s Digest and The Writer were around but I didn’t realize they existed until I was in my late twenties.

“Try this for a deep, dark secret: the great detective, Remington Steele? He doesn’t exist. I invented him. Follow. I always loved excitement, so I studied, and apprenticed, and put my name on an office. But absolutely nobody knocked down my door. A female private investigator seemed so… feminine.” ~ Laura Holt: Remington Steele

So I started my journey on the path to publication and it was damn hard.  Of course we all had that time that I thought it wouldn’t be.  That you just write the book send it out and viola!  You’re published and they’re making a movie about your book with a Behind the Scenes feature on the VHS (Yes, I’m old) and rubbing elbows with Hollywood.

It was difficult to send full novels out because it costs a lot of money, not to mention there were no home computers back then and novels had to be typed long hand and then copied unless you wanted to send your original and pay for its return,  You couldn’t just print multiple copies like you can now and even that’s expensive.  The copy of Tinderbox I sent to DAW cost me a total of $120.00 to print and send.  That included ink, paper and postage.

So I continued to learn and read.  Did I say I read?  I devoured books with a passion.  My idea of a fun adventure would involve being locked overnight in a bookstore or a library.  I’ve read tens of thousands of books in my lifetime.  Yes you heard right. I’ve said I’ve got almost four hundred books on my bookshelves now and am planning on buying more.  Books and bookshelves that is.
Still I worked to perfect my craft.  To realize that everything I wrote wasn’t brilliant to start with and immediately worthy of publication.  That I had to work at it and learn to edit the hell out of my writing but not edit it too much that I lost the overall story.  Yes you can over edit.  Back then it seemed as though all agents wanted money although I was assured by the owner of one of the bookstores that I frequented that there were some who didn’t do so.  I didn’t believe him.  Those were discouraging times.

Then the net came along and a new world opened up.  I didn’t have to write snail mail letters anymore or print out a whole manuscript.  It was just getting agents to want to look at my work.  So I continued to write, study and research.  I joined critique groups took some courses all of which helped me improve.  More agents were appearing with more genre wants and they didn’t charge fees!  When I was better equipped financially, I started joining various writing organizations to learn even more.

“I’ve done everything the Bible says! Even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff! What more can I do?”

~ Ned Flanders: The Simpsons

I read articles, blogs, websites.  Found a list of the agents I wanted and researched them, followed them on social media.  Asked them questions when I wasn’t sure about something.  Some answered, some didn’t.  I learned to write query letters and synopsis.

I had my writing defeat and quit then but the urge to write wouldn’t go away.  I managed to make it about two years before I started Tinderbox.  My brain refused to stop thinking like a writer.  It took me five years and three crashed computers to finish it.  I feel it is my best work to date.  And I have proof of this.

About eleven months ago, an agent made a request for a full of Tinderbox. Unfortunately after sending it and nudging twice, I haven’t heard anything since.  There is no indication on their site of a “no response means no” policy when it comes to submission, so I wrote it off as a no response.  I then received two more requests for fulls.  One was a pass and the other is still out.  I also have two partial requests I’m waiting on.  So obviously I’m to the point where I am talented enough to catch the interest of agents.  And of course there are my e-books so publishers as well.

But it’s been a long and hard fight for me, and I’m getting a little tired, so I decided this was going to be the year it happened and if it didn’t, then I was going to officially retire from the business.  I know I’m great at what I do but I haven’t been able to figure out what it is I’m missing.  But still I tried.

Then I see a case of fan-fiction writer makes it big.  First EL James and now Sophie Jackson.  Now me, I love fan-fiction and yes I wrote some back in the day, more for pleasure and the love of the subject than anything. But I had already written several novels and short-stories of my own already and long before I even knew what fan-fiction was.  I’ve always thought if it’s not yours then it’s not worth it. 

“Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds, and settings. Using someone else’s world is the lazy way out.”  ~ George RR Martin http://www.georgerrmartin.com/

Now don’t get me wrong, if I get to a point where readers want to write fan-fiction about my characters, then I say, go forth and enjoy!  Hell, I’d be as flattered as all get-out.  Just as long as you don’t try to make money off of my work.  To me it’s disrespectful and let’s face it, it is plagiarism.  As hard as I have worked to create what’s mine, I feel no one should take it away.  I’m sure if the shoe was on the other foot – if you’ll pardon the cliché they would feel exactly the same.

“As for anybody publishing any story “derived from” my stuff, I am absolutely opposed to it & have never given anyone permission to do so. It is lovely to “share worlds” if your imagination works that way, but mine doesn’t; to me, it’s not sharing but an invasion, literally — strangers coming in and taking over the country I live in, my heartland.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin http://www.ursulakleguin.com/UKL_info.html

Stephanie Meyers isn’t making a big fuss but she also doesn’t seem to be 100% behind EL James either.  She seems to have adopted a “Good for her, but I won’t read it.” type attitude.  But it just makes me wonder, does she care about her words?  Maybe she didn’t have to work as hard, I really don’t know.  She did say in an article that she also feels people should write their own words so maybe she does.  But me, as I’ve written I did work hard and still am.

And I guess my point, after this long missive, is that when I see things like this happen – fan-fiction into millions of dollars, I wonder, why am I doing all of this work?  Why have I studied and researched and worked to improve my craft like I’ve been told so often by agents, publishers, editors and other writers?  What’s the point of writing the perfect query letter, the perfect synopsis and choosing carefully who you submit too when someone else comes along, writes something that isn’t even theirs and bam!  They’re a damn millionaire.  Agents, editors and publishers are always writing and speaking about how writers need to follow instructions to a tee, how they want query letters to be a certain way, how they want our writing to be and how we should submit to them. 

So I do this.  I’ve done this for decades and when I see stories like Fifty Shades and A Pound of Flesh and publishers and agents are snapping it up, it’s like being punched in the stomach.  I know it’s not a common occurrence – well I suppose it is now.  But it only hurts authors who are truly working hard to become a part of the business.  Well actually, I’m more confused than anything.  Why do you tell me to do all of these things then you grab someone’s bad fan-fiction, or ask for a full on the basis of a 140 word pitch on Twitter, when it took me a query letter, synopsis, partial and finally the full?

I’ve always prided myself on being able to write my own works.  With Tinderbox although it takes a page from Andersen’s story, it’s not a complete re-write of his words from a fan-fiction I might have wrote.  I’m very proud of that fact, not to mention this isn’t the only novel I’ve written over the years.  Go and look at one of my e-books or novellas.  There’s nothing like them on fan-fiction.net or any fan fiction site for that matter.

So that’s about it.  One more year at this. 

Then again, I wonder if someone would accept some re-written Hunger Games or Divergent fan-fiction?

Peace ~

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