Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Guest Post by Tracy Sharp

Joe sez: If you've missed the previous guest blogs, they've been fascinating and informative.

You can read CG Cooper talking about his Rule of Three here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/06/guest-post-by-carlos-cooper.html

You can read Todd Travis talking about fear here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/06/gust-post-by-todd-travis.html

You can read Patrick Balester talking about how he learned to love e-publishing here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/06/guest-post-by-patrick-balester.html

You can read Shantnu Tiwari talking about publishing cliches here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/06/guest-post-by-shantnu-tiwari.html

You can read Mike Dennis talking about noir here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/06/guest-post-by-mike-dennis.html

You can read Douglas Dorow talking about the publishing game here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/06/guest-post-by-douglas-dorow.html

You can read Iain Rob Wrights 10 self-publishing tips here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-iain-rob-wright.html

Now here is today's guest poster, Tracy Sharp...

Just do it!

First I’d like to thank Joe for this amazing opportunity. I love your blog and I know I’m not alone when I say, you rock!

Okay, so is anyone else feeling like this? Lately I’ve been getting really frustrated and short with folks who tell me how unhappy they are. I’ve been hearing a lot of “if only”. Like, if only, I had more time I could do what I really want to do.  If only I won the lottery, I could do whatever I wanted.

Know what? I have a full-time job, a five year old, a household, and I figure it out. I get up at 5:30 each morning and jog before staggering into the shower. I get myself and my kid ready; drop him off at daycare, then write in parking lots before work. If it’s too cold, I write fast.

I walk 20 miles to work, uphill both ways. I know, I sound like your parents, right? I sound like mine too.

Does my determination make me a better person that anyone else? No. But damn it, I’m doing what I want to do. I’m making it happen. Am I rolling in $100 bills? Hells, no. But I have a bit of cash to fill my gas tank, or pay my car insurance, or buy that birthday, graduation, baby shower, whatever gift I wasn’t planning on having to buy.

In the fall I had a $400.00 car repair bill. Guess what? I’d just made that much with the Leah Ryan series the month before. Last summer I bought these bitchin’ motorcycle boots with my writing money. I was over the moon about that. So, yeah. I’m doin’ it. It’s not easy but I’m getting it done.

I’ve learned a lot over the years about discipline. The first full novel I wrote was horror novel. It took me a year and it sucked. Badly. I had no idea about character, structure, dialogue, story arcs, or any element that makes up a story. But I’d just finished my English Degree, which makes excellent paper airplanes! Funny how you really don’t learn much about writing in English classes. You learn how to analyze and break down books, but not much about how to actually write.

Anyway, that book is sitting in a dark corner on my external hard drive and will never see the light of day. But man, I finished it. I was elated when I wrote The End. I think I’ve gotten better since then. I sure hope so.

The next was a mystery/thriller called Repo Chick Blues. I wrote this for Harlequin Bombshell, who rejected me. I came home to find the manuscript ripped open, then abandoned, on the kitchen table. My heart sank as I read the rejection letter.

My then husband sat in his office bopping around to the latest Justin Timberlake song. “Have you heard the new Justin Timberlake song?” he asked me, chair dancing to the electro-pop sound. “It’s damned good.”

I stared at him for long moment, marveling at the considerable power of sexual euphoria. Ever doubt it? Don’t. I moved countries because of it.

“You opened my manuscript?” I asked him.

He continued bopping in his chair. “Yeah. I thought it was a contract.”

“They rejected me.”

“Have you heard this new Justin Timberlake song? It’s damned good.”

Wow. I wondered if the cast iron frying pan would make the same funny clangy sound in real life coming down on his head as it did in my imagination.

“Why are you smiling? You like the song?” He asked me, grinning. “It’s good, right?”

“Yeah. It’s damned good.”

That marriage died a pretty quick death after that. So did Harlequin Bombshell. But I still had Repo Chick Blues, and I sold it to a small publisher and made next to nothing. I wrote two other books in the series, and a few years later I sold the series to a different publisher, which quickly went under.

I’d been following Joe’s blog for a while by then. I got my rights back by default and self-pubbed all three Leah books. I gave away 12,000 copies of Repo my first KDP promo. The books haven’t sold a ton but they’ve been a steady small bit of income.

Next I wrote a young adult horror novel called Spooked. Finished it last October and uploaded it to Amazon. That one has gotten excellent reviews but hasn’t sold much. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the cover as well, so I don’t know what gives. *Shrug*.

So wrote a horror novel over the winter. It’s called Soul Trade. I just released it. Hasn’t sold much. But I did it. I jumped on Deviant Art and found an amazing cover artist named Jonathan (Jai) McFerran. He knocked my socks off, and I emailed him, asking if he’d do the cover for me. I was half finished Soul Trade at that point, and once I had that cover on my desktop, I opened it and looked at it while I wrote.  When you’re shivering in a parking lot or in a cold basement with your five year old making a racket upstairs, you find inspiration where you can.

Recently another writer asked me how I get to The End. She finds it a struggle. How do I do it? I write when I’m tired. I write when I’m sick. I write when I’ve got no heart for it. When I’m blocked, I start moving my fingers and the words just come. It isn’t always easy but I do it. I write when all that I put down on the page is nothing but drivel. I don’t edit myself when I’m writing that first draft. I just write.

Will I ever make a lot of money writing? Maybe not. But that’s not why I do it. If that’s why anyone does it, man, they need to rethink it because there are just a lot easier ways of making a buck. But if you love it and you want to do it, then for mercy’s sake, just do it!

Soul Trade is currently free. If you like the spooky stuff, you might enjoy it.

My mom thinks it’s great ;)

Joe sez: Thanks, Tracy, for reminding writers everywhere that self-publishing ebooks isn't a magic bean that instantly sprouts a giant stalk made of hundred dollar bills.

It reminded me of a blog I wrote waaaaay back in 2005 (was there even an Internet in 2005?) which I'm going to repeat here:

I haven't had a vacation in four years, and I don't expect one next year either.

This July, my family demanded some 'together time' so I took them up to a cabin in Michigan. Along the way I did signings. And I brought my laptop.

My two closest friends, whom I've known for 26 years, coerced me into taking a three day weekend off to go on brewery tours. I went with them, but managed to fit in a library event while they were boozing it up.

The kids have been off school for a week, and I managed to do some bonding. But I also did some editing, some writing, some website updating, and a few blog entries.

Am I missing out on life? In a word: Yes. And since misery loves company, I want you to miss out too.

  • Can't find an agent?
  • Can't sell your book?
  • Getting a lot of rejections?
  • Stuck on that short story?
  • Book not selling well?
  • Disappointed by your numbers?
  • Haven't finished that novel?
  • Unable to find a new publisher?
My question for you is: How much time have you put in?

Remember listening to your grandparents talk about the Great Depression? They used words like "Sacrifice" and "Hard work."

Writing involves sacrifice and hard work. That means denying yourself some things, like friends and family and free time. If you want to make it, you have to put in the hours.

I'm not going to argue that your writing is more important than your children---that isn't true. Family is far more important than career. But if your family loves you, they'll also understand how important your career is, and give you time to pursue it.

If you want to succeed in this biz, be prepared to make sacrifices and find the time to get things done.

Here's a handy list of some things you can sacrifice:
  • Vacation
  • Friends
  • TV
  • Going out
  • Reading
  • Surfing the Internet
  • Sleep
  • Eating
The harder you work, the better your chance at success. This is a business about persistence, not talent. Asimov wrote 400 books. James Reasoner just finished his 185th. How many have you done?

Now I fully expect some vehement disagreement. Replies that speak of values and priorities and happiness and importance, and examples of authors on the bestseller list who take plenty of time off. I'm sure plenty of folks will feel sorry for my family, or for me for not 'getting it.' Some of you will insist you can have your cake and eat it too, and some of you may indeed do that.

But the next time you're lamenting your career, ask yourself two questions: What have I done so far? & What have I sacrificed?

If you've never finished a novel, have only gotten 50 rejections, and plan on using the holiday break to relax, are you entitled to the disappointment you feel about the state of your writing career? Or if you published your book, then did minimal self-promotion, can you really feel betrayed that you sold so poorly?

Here's an axiom that no one likes, me included, but I adhere to it anyway:

"You can always do more."

And the next time you're relaxing, pick up a copy of Who's Who, or crack open a history book, and look at all of the successful, famous people that our society reveres. How many of them are in there for being good parents? For taking vacations? For watching a lot of television? For partying with friends?

Happy Holidays! I gotta get back to work.

Joe sez again: I encourage everyone to go back to that 2005 post and read the comments to show what a little workhorse I was (and probably still am).

The coolest part? I wrote that when I was earning $30k a year from writing. Now I make $30k in ten days.

So keep it up for 7 more years, Tracy. If you don't crack, I foresee great things in your future.

On a side note, I just bought Repo Chick Blues for $2.99 because it got a one-star review that said "And in the second chapter she's already having an explicit scene with herself in the shower."

Seriously? How is that not the best 1 star review ever?

So then, naturally, I read the first two chapters. The scene was hot, and also functioned as character development while moving the plot forward. Also, Tracy is a good writer. I instantly liked the main character and the story, and I know my wife will as well (my wife is my beta tester--if she doesn't like something I wrote, I change it.)

So for Tracy, and for everyone reading this: Keep at it. 

The measure of a person's character is what finally makes them quit. If you never quit, success is inevitable.