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Fail Safe

31 July 2016

From author Steve Hockensmith:

There are certain moments a writer dreads. Reading an email that begins “Thank you for your submission, but….” Seeing a one-star review pop up on Amazon. Finding one of your own books in the remainder bin — or, even worse, realizing you’re not in the damn Barnes & Noble in any way whatsoever.

I’ve been through them all. More than once. More than twice. More than…well, lots. And for a long, long time, I let each experience mark me. I’d see the rejection, the bad review, the nothing where my books ought to be, and I’d feel the rubber stamp smacking into my forehead.

. . . .

It got really bad a while back when I found myself, for the first time in years, without a book contract. Money got tight. Mickey Rourke’s cheeks after his fourth facelift tight. So tight my wife started to give me a running countdown to doom.

Her: “We have six months before we run out of money.”

Her: “We have five months before we run out of money.”

Her: “We have four months before we run out of money.”

Her: “You got a royalty check today.”

Me: “Huzzah!”

Her: “Yeah. Yippee. We have five months before we run out of money.”

. . . .

Eventually, I reached the moment every professional writer really dreads. The moment you realize you can’t be a professional writer any more. Not of the “make up fun crap in your pajamas all day” variety, anyway. It was time to go back to a day job.

Of course, Fate being the perverted biyatch she is, the second I landed a 9-to-5 gig, contracts started flying at me. Suddenly I had three series to write…and no time to write them. So a “Tarot Mystery” was a little late. Then a “Nick and Tesla” book was really late. Then another “Tarot Mystery” was reeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaalllllllllllly late. I was a pro again, as I’d defined it, but I was stressed out and burned out and disappointed in myself for letting my editors down. And you know what?

I’d reached the ultimate FAIL, in fact: Writing was making me unhappy. It had been for a long time, I realized. Because how can you be happy with that FAIL FAIL FAIL constantly whacking you in the face?

And who was doing the whacking? Not editors, not agents, not snarky reviewers, not even Fate.

It was me.

Link to the rest at Steve Hockensmith

Here’s a link to Steve Hockensmith’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

The Business of Writing

3 Comments to “Fail Safe”

  1. ‘Whacking self’ mode off.

    It really doesn’t help.

    But it can be easier to assign a comfortable blame to not making progress than to do the steps necessary.

    ‘I’m working on it’ is my motto.

    I used to tell people, ‘If something happens to me, tell Mother I died trying.’

    Didn’t realize it might take my whole life, but hey – what else have I got to do? And the writing is still more fun than anything else.

  2. This was a great post. It struck a chord with me because I do just what his wife does, only to myself. 🙂

    I’ll be out of money in 6, 5, 4, 3… months if I don’t finish this book right now.

    It’s very stressful, and it certainly doesn’t help me finish books faster. 😮 I should really stop that.

  3. What gets to me is the sense of passivity permeating the article. Waiting for a contract, and being helpless to do anything if no contract is forthcoming. Waiting for royalty checks (because any contractual payment schedules are, of course, as realistic as a zombie-ridden Regency England). Feeling pressured not to let editors down, to the point that writing feels like a chore.

    Sales aren’t good enough for your current series? Switch to a different one, or a different sub-genre, or a whole new one. Going to run out of money in five months? Make sure the next book is out in three. No need to depend on your publisher’s whims or cash flow. You only need to satisfy your readership.

    I’d take a pay cut just to have that kind of freedom. Except I don’t have to, since my earnings per book hold up fairly well to current advance rates in my genre, even without adding the extra 12-18 months of sales I don’t miss out on while waiting for the publisher to put out the damn books. And Amazon hasn’t missed a monthly payment yet.

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