Archive | June, 2012

The Psychology of Failure

28 Jun

Today I want to talk about something that nobody really wants to talk about: failure.

If you’re looking for some inspiration quotes, some clichés to soften the blow, then read another blog. There’s not going to be any rose-coloured glasses handed out to sugar-coat the issue, just the simple fact that failure sucks.

When you fail, you’ve got two choices – quit, or try harder. That’s it. That’s all. It’s not complicated at all.

Unpublished writers don’t have any way to judge how close they are to success, if maybe this next revision will be the one that works. There aren’t any statistics to measure how far you’ve come, how far you’ve got left to go, or how many more plateaus are left to conquer. And the more time you invest in something, the harder it is to quit.

So what has failure done for me? It’s shoved me out of my comfort zones, dragged me over multiple plateaus, and brought my writing up to a higher level.

Better? Yes. Good enough? We’ll see.

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Interview 2 with Steve McHugh

20 Jun

Steve McHugh recently launched his new novel, Crimes Against Magic, available on Amazon. Between publishing a paper version, writing the sequel – and well , everything else on his plate – he managed to squeeze in some precious time to stop by for an interview.

D:  It has to be a unique feeling to get your novel published. What was going through your mind as you were preparing to launch your story? How did crossing the finish line feel?

S:  Honestly, I was terrified that people would hate it, that it would never sell and that my entire idea of being a capable writer was some sort of crazed fantasy.  It was a pretty scary thing to do, to allow myself to be put out there. Turns out, I was wrong to feel that way, but at the time I was stepping into the unknown.

It felt great to finally be at the point where publishing was happening, but that first day was so nerve wracking I probably didn’t allow myself to feel any sort of euphoria at having completed it.

D:  Are you allowing yourself to feel some euphoria now?  Or have you jumped right into wrapping up your next project? Is there going to be a book three in the future?

S:  I guess euphoria could be a good way of describing it. I’d set a goal what I wanted to sell on my opening day. Something I thought was realistic. 12 books sold, that was it. I managed about 35, so that was incredible. It settled down pretty quickly after that, but the fact that people are buying and (according to the reviews) liking my book is just far more than I could have hoped.

Book 2, Born of Hatred should be out in September. That’s the plan anyway. It takes place a few months after Crimes Against Magic and hopefully people will enjoy it. Book 3, With Silent Screams, should be out by next June and then there’s Book 4, Prison of Hope. No idea when that one will be out.

I have notes for about 20 books with Nate as the main character, and detailed notes for about 12 of those. So, I’ve got a while to go yet. I also have a Steampunk novel I’m working on. But it’s not going to get too much attention until Born of Hatred is finished.

D:  This novel-writing business is, in essence, a marathon. How long did each step take – the concept, writing the first draft, bringing it up to an edited version you were happy with, and then preparing for publishing?

S:  The concept took years. I wrote a book about 5 years ago called, For Past Sins. That got binned after it became apparent that it wasn’t good enough to publish and from its ashes, rose Crimes Against Magic.

The first draft took about 3 months, as the story was pretty well formed in my head and I just needed to write it down. After that, I spent a long time waiting for people to send back their crit versions and then I spent even longer editing over and over again. Probably from first word to finished, it took just over a year.

Then I spent a year looking for an agent, taking part in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel (which I got to the quarter finals) and generally feeling crap over the number of “it’s great…but” I managed to accrue.

I spent a while changing a few things on the story that I’d become unhappy with over the years as I prepared for publishing myself. That took about six months as I was pretty heavily into wanting to get book 2 nearly finished before I launched.

So, from beginning to end, it probably took me about three years, give or take a few months.

D:  I think we writers all have a first project that nobody will ever see… (shoves storage box deeper into closet…) but what did For Past Sins teach you about writing a novel? What to do, what not to do.

S:  For Past Sins taught me to not over complicate everything. There were far too many characters in it and it could have done with a cull of some of them. I learnt a lot about pacing from it too. I think CAM is much better paced and breaks up the action and exposition better than FPS did. I think mostly, it made me a better writer. It made me aware of where my strengths are and how to improve my weaknesses.

D:  Looking for an agent has to be the most frustrating part of the process. How do you think e-publishing will change the future of publishing? Do you think we’ll get to the stage where the querying process becomes redundant?

S:  Querying is always going to be important, but it seems like some agents/publishers use self published authors as a gauge to see how successful they are and then offer contracts based on that success. To be able to prove that your book is well received, both commercially and critically is something that I think agents and publishers are looking at more and more.

Trying to get an agent is very frustrating. And demoralising. And basically it sucks. But, and this is the key, it’s also very important. Every writer, whether you’re going to go it alone or otherwise, should write a query and synopsis for their book. It’s useful to have and, more importantly, you’ll learn a lot about your book from doing it. And I think having that rejection from agents and publishers prepares you for your writing career. It certainly thickened my skin.

D:  What three pieces of advice would you give to someone just starting out?

S:  Join a crit group. It’s the best advice any writer can be given. Not only will your writing improve in leaps and bounds if you find a good one, but you’ll meet like-minded writers who are willing to help you when you need it. Seriously, everyone who writes with a mind for publishing needs a crit group.

Also, I’d say that even if you’re set on publishing as an indie writer, you need to go through the process as if you were being traditionally published. Make sure the story makes sense, that you don’t have too many stupid mistakes (everyone, even published authors make mistakes. Most books have a few somewhere.) Write a synopsis and query letter. They are both excellent tools in your arsenal as a writer, and will come in handy on more than one occasion.

Enjoy yourself. If you’re not enjoying it, write something else. If you don’t like what you’re writing, it’s likely that everyone who reads it will notice it.

Thanks for the interview, Steve. Always a pleasure chatting with you.