Friday, February 1, 2008

1. The dark side of fiction writing

Michael W. Davis

(a.k.a Big Mike)

Author of: Tainted Hero (Champagne books, 12/07), The Treasure (Golden Acorn Publishing, 12/07), Forgotten Children (Champagne books, 6/08)

In upcoming months I will share thoughts on the wonder of fiction writing, the pleasures, the do’s and don’t; but how about the pain? Sometimes its best to start with a reality check about the dark side to offer a glimpse into the deep corners, the fact that the mirror can sometimes be cracked. Before you read this, be warned, I’m in a dark closet right now, so read on in that context.

I entered fiction writing to add a new dimension to my life. Something to fill in the empty zones, provide an outlet for the stories that constantly float around in my head (no, not voices, just stories.) Over time, writing took on a new form, an all-encompassing mistress that consumes you, devours ever moment, ever thought. This powerful hunger she has, it sometimes pushes the fun out of the equation. The writing itself is a release, a thing of beauty, a form to share thoughts and visions from your mind’s eye, but there is a dark side to this mistress. With all her loveliness, it’s easy to be blinded by those curves, that soft skin, her scent. She can take a toll on your spirit. Forget for the moment the chance to see your name in print (wasn’t my reason cause I’d been their before), or everyone wanting to talk to you about your stories (that is a great thing, you interact with so many new people), just for the moment consider the down side, before you dive in:

1. Rejection – If you are sensitive to rejection, or having people toss arrows at you about your work; don’t walk, run away. Search the web for “submission rejection experiences.” The “want a bee” writer’s posts abound with the flood of "no thank you" letters with no explanation, or even worst, sometimes they contain a harsh or senseless non-constructive tone. Before I got my first story accepted, it would not be an overstatement that I received hundreds of rejection letters, some helpful, but most harshly written. There’s a website called “The water cooler.” Read some of the horror stories they reveal.

2. Self promotion – If you’re lucky enough to get published, chances are it will be by one of the independent small publishing houses. Unless you have a relative that has contacts or a really “close” friend that’s an agent, the big houses no longer accept self-submissions (have to go thought a second party.) What does this mean? If you want to be successful (and who doesn’t) you will have to do a ton of self-promotion activities. Read again the word TON. The big boys can afford to spend 100 grand, quarter million, etc to promote a book. The small pub houses cannot. It’s just a reality, a harsh fact of the fiction writing business. If you don’t self-market, things are really weighted against you. I consider myself to be good at projecting ahead, forecasting how hard I have to work, but frankly, I was totally blindsided by the hours that must be spent to promote ones self. I do it, it’s a necessity, but it was one heck of a surprise. In a future post I’ll share in detail some of the self-promotion methods, techniques, suggestions, but not here.

3. Absence of the muse – I didn’t delve into fiction writing to make money. I had done enough research to know massive amounts of financial return were unlikely. I started because I enjoy articulating the stories, the visions in my mind. I really get off when someone says, “man, that story moved me, I couldn’t put it down.” Unfortunately, as you become published (unless you’re a King or Clancy with shadow writers and a promotion staff) you will be drawn away from your passion, the thing you loved in the first place. It becomes harder and harder to lock yourself away to just do what you like to do.

Ok, now that I’ve been mister dark cloud, if you can deal with all that, my take is that it’s still worth the ride. The chance to reach for your dream, and see it materialize, will never come if you don’t take that leap into the abyss filled with gators and vipers. Enough said. My follow on post will be more up beat, I promise.

Big Mike