Looking at Your Writing from a New Perspective (Breaking Writer’s Block)

It has been a while since I’ve written. For a number of reasons, but largely because I have been busy and I have been stuck.

I know, I know. The age-old excuses.

But they plague us all, don’t they?

I work full time and I am a full time graduate student. So time is tight. But everyone’s time is tight. As Stephen King advises, sometimes you just have to sit your @$$ in the chair and just do the work, but sometimes it is a whole lot easier to make yourself get in the chair, let alone accomplish anything in said chair. To be honest, I can usually make time for my writing when I am pumped about a project.

In comes excuse number two, being stuck. For the first time in months I am writing daily and loving it. I wrote a novel a while back and tried to publish it. I got some offers, but nothing I was crazy about. Considered self-publishing, and realized I wasn’t happy enough with the book to put it out there. (Funny how if you think about doing all that editing and marketing on your own, you realize the story might need work,)

So I’ve been in the quagmire of serious re-writing. But I kept getting bogged down with the old story, and as a result, I was never quite happy with any of the new stuff.

I played around with a couple other projects but was bored for the most part. Nothing was really taking off, and I couldn’t quite let go of the last novel.

Finally, I set my butt in the chair again and started brainstorming a totally new novel. It incorporated some ideas from my old novel and some of the ideas from the re-writes, but it was an entirely new story, a new world. I came at the writing from a truly new perspective.

And the story has taken off, I am excited to say. I am waking early to sit my butt in that chair and write. I am staying up late after the homework is done to write.

Sometimes you have to look at things from a new perspective. Try another genre or writing style or whatever it is.

Mix things up.

If what you are writing is not exciting you, perhaps there is a reason, and you’ve got to embrace that reason rather than try to hide from it. If you are having anxiety attacks over sitting your butt in the chair, maybe it’s time for a new project.

Now, everyday is not going to be fun, of course. But if your excitement and joy are gone for weeks or months, maybe it’s time to try something new and different.

This is true for writing, and maybe for life in general.

Sometimes we need a new perspective. Sometimes we need to try something a little different. It might just reignite our passion.

It did for me, anyway.

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Saying No to a Book Offer (Bad Publishers and Vanity)

say-noIf you’re a writer, chances are, like me, you’ve dreamed of being published ever since you penned the first word. At times, this desire can even cloud judgment. There are many sad stories of hopeful writers, perhaps even very good ones, who became the victim of bad publishers or agents.

Recently, I got offered a contract for a book I wrote. One which I am very passionate about, believe it has a ton of potential, and very much want to hurry up and get out there on the market.

But I rejected the offer.

I won’t name names, but the publisher was marketed as a small house independent publisher. When I got a response requesting the full—at the time, it was the first full request for this book—I leapt with excitement. I had edited the full novel immensely already (you should always have a polished and complete MS before even thinking of submitting), so I formatted it according to their preferences and sent it off, excited and anxious (even nauseous) all at once.

A month later I received a contract offer (a quick response for the publishing world). My excitement and my ego soared… until I read through the offer… which said that they loved my book, but as they were a small publisher and I was a risky new author, they would like me to cover some of the up front costs, to the amount of $3000.

RED FLAG—

If this didn’t raise a red flag for you, it should have.

This is a sketchy practice by sketchy businesses known as vanity publishers. Vanity publishers essentially publish for people publishing their father’s journals, and for sucker authors whose wisdom was clouded by the lure of publication as soon as possible.

Word for the wise: if any publisher asks anything from you monetarily, RUN away.

Do not even think of signing anything. Publishers, small or large press, are supposed to cover all costs, whether editing or jacket design or marketing or printing. It is a show of good faith, and it means that they don’t make money unless you are making money. In essence, the book has to sell in order for the house to make money, which means they will put in the work to make your book the best it can be.

Immediately, I knew this contract was a bad idea. But there was that part of me that considered it, even for a moment. I wanted to see my book in print so badly, I actually thought about shelling out three grand, as if the hundreds of hours of wage-less toil weren’t already enough good faith from my end. My judgment was momentarily clouded.

Some hints as you query your book I would share:

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH!

I know a novel idea (pardon the pun). Actually look into the agents and houses you are submitting to. Find out what books they have published (not only so you know whether they would be interested in your novel at all, but so you know whether they will be a good fit for you and your book at all).

Find out what their sales records are, look them up on Amazon or Goodreads.

What is their marketing strategy?

What do their royalty structures look like?

Make sure they are reputable. Check sites like Absolute Write, in their Writer’s Beware section to find things like this out.

  1. DON’T BE HASTY

As the sage, Treebeard, would say.

Be patient.

Do research.

Don’t jump immediately at the first agent or publisher who will read your MS. Give yourself time for the clouds of desire to dissipate so you can be wise and make an informed decision. Be cautious, and don’t sign away your precious MS over to a shark because the lust for publication is so strong.

  1. LEARN TO SAY NO

I said no to this offer. It pained me a little to say no, no matter how wise I knew it was. Only writers who have sacrificed countless hours for a project that could never go beyond their desk printer can relate to this.

But be able to say no.

Don’t be seduced by the wolves out there. They prey on writers with clouded judgment.

  1. KEEP AT IT

Eventually, if your writing is good, your work will be found by the right agent or small press, and when that time comes they will put in the work to make your book all it can be. Don’t cheat yourself by jumping the gun. Be willing to wait.

Keep polishing your MS and your Query letter if you’re not getting requests. Move on to a new project for a while.

I wish you all the best as your write and submit. Make sure you take time to polish, and probably write another draft or two.

–But when you submit, be wise!

*I would love to hear from you if this was helpful to you, or if I can be of further help!*

*Please leave a comment about your own experiences!*

*If you’d like to check out the first few chapters of my novel, The Lingering Shadow, go here.*

Cheers!

S. Andrew