We’re coming to a close with My Secret O’s special feature: From Fan Fiction to Original Fiction : What It’s Really Like To Write Novels and Get them Published. Unfortunately WordPress did not notify all our blog followers as it should last time so in case you missed Part II last week find it here. The complete set of articles and accompanying reference pages can be found collectively here.
A special thanks to My Secret O for providing us all with this information and indulging all these queries, we thought she covered everything that there was to tell in her article but as the answers below show there’s even more we didn’t know about!
From Fan Fiction to Original Fiction :
What It’s Really Like to Write Novels and Get Them Published
Q: How did you deal with the rejection from professionals?
A: Rejections are the hardest and only certain part about submitting to publishers and agents. It’s like getting a bad review. I’ll be the first to admit a negative review ruins my day. I feel attacked when a reader tears my story apart. The difference is, this isn’t someone being petty about how ‘Your Eric isn’t in character!’ they’re telling you they don’t want your book. It’s a professional who knows what they’re doing (you hope!), which hurts in a completely different way. Instead of being insulted, I take a deep breath, keep querying, and hope for the best. Yes, you can ask why your manuscript got rejected, but I wouldn’t advise it. Try to stay positive and remind yourself that someone out there is going to love it.
Q: The romance genre is different than other publishing fields in that they actively seek to what ‘sells’, how much of that did you experience? You describe that you gave in where as a writer you disagreed. For example, by too ‘squicky’ did they mean not enough sex or were they pushing for more variation, etc.?
A: The sex scene I wrote was too graphic (think Blood Lust in Getaway) and Liquid Silver, the publisher that picked up my book, didn’t like it. I actually worried about that when I started writing, so I asked an editor at a different publisher (who ended up rejecting me) and she said it was fine, so it’s all about what is acceptable at each house.
Q: Do you actually meet anyone in the flesh or is it all phone and emails?
A: No, I didn’t meet anyone in the flesh. All e-mails and Skype … phone calls if you’re lucky.
Q: Just curious if it was all digital with you or that you did actually get to hold a physical copy at some point.
A: All digital. Most romance publishers release e-books first, and then a paper one later if it’s successful. Your profit on paper books is WAY lower though, and paper comes from trees, which I struggle with since I’m a hardcore environmentalist, but it would be so cool to hold a book I wrote!!!
Q: Fanfic vs. actual writing question: In general Fan fiction tends to be overly verbose and extended beyond natural endings. Did you end up writing and scrapping more than you would have in a fanfic situation?
A: I agree. FF does tend to go beyond typical story arcs. I’m guilty of it, but then when I’ve outlined stories and stuck to it, readers complain about it being over too soon. Publishers and editors hate superfluous words. Nice clean sentences that move the plot, that’s what they want.
Q: Did you try to get as far away from fan fiction as you could or do Eric and Sookie still unexpectedly rear their heads where they’re not supposed to?
A: Sometimes their character traits show up in there somewhere…
Q: How did you fare with the reviews? Fan fiction readers tend to be overwhelmingly nice with the rare exceptions of a few assholes who taunt anonymously. I’ve always thought if people were paying for fan fiction they probably wouldn’t be as kind. So how were the reactions? And did your base from fan fiction come out en masse to buy the books?
A: On my blog, I have my book reviews listed as: The good, the bad, and the spoilers. I got all sorts. Some were ff fans who bought and loved it, knowing what to expect from me, others were friends who shamelessly plugged me; others were people I know who were flat out rude about my writing style. Some were complete strangers who had no problem outlining exactly what they hated about my book. It’s a mixed bag and it’s helped toughen me a little.
Q: I’ve read that E.L. James “changed” her ff to fit Christian Grey’s world and not infringe on Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. Do you think it’s possible to “update” current fanfiction works for the intention of submitting to a publisher?
A: I think that can be tricky. The fan fiction world is a comfortable place to write, and because of this, these stories lack backstory and character development. Why bother wasting your reader’s time repeating the details they already know? Original fiction is different. You must know your characters and introduce them to your readers in a way that will make them love or hate them. You also need to set the scene to draw your readers into your world, which means creating your own canon, and sticking to it from beginning to end.
My original fiction and fan fiction ideas grow from the same place in my brain. Sometimes, I get an idea for Sookie and Eric. Other times, I think of a new character and everything else falls into place.
In my opinion, ‘updating’ a story is a lot harder than starting something new. 🙂
Q: How does social media come into play with marketing your books, I know certain Goodreads readers or blogs dedicated to book reviews can make or break someone. Also, how much of your own PR are you doing?
A: This is the worst part for me. I hate promoting myself. I rarely get on my author social media accounts, and I struggle to stay connected to my readers. I love replying to my reviews and comments on my blog, but that’s my personal space. I’m kind of a hermit, I guess. I have a friend who runs one of those Goodreads book review groups and she helped me get a lot of readers, but I don’t really make an effort to reach out to people and tell them about the books I’ve written. I’m not sure if it’s sheer laziness or anxiety. That’s why I just queried nine new agents for my third book. So they do the work for me! LOL
Q: How do you connect to your book readers (if at all), and how is that different to fan fiction readers? More rewarding? Less?
A: I usually have the most feedback right after a release, which gives me an opportunity to reply to comments or reviews on Goodreads (only the good ones. Remember, it’s not worth it to pick a fight with a reader!). Once that dies down, it’s harder to keep conversations flowing without a tremendous amount of effort. I feel much more at home with my Fan Fiction readers. These are my people. They know me and I know them. They are also more kind and willing to overlook a missing comma or type-o. Reading reviews in the real world is intimidating and makes my heart race every time.
Q: How is your interaction with other published authors, or is it just all rather lonely?
A: When I signed on with Liquid Silver, I became part of a team of first-time authors. We had meetings every week (via Skype) to discuss our progress with edits, and one of the editors gave us assignments and taught classes covering the basics. Just like that, I had a community of women who were in the same boat with me. It felt good. I don’t expect to ever find that kind of welcoming committee again, but that doesn’t mean I’m isolated. Writing groups are a great way to share, brainstorm, and learn; although you may not connect with authors in your genre.
My writing group consisted of authors of young adult, horror, and action. I didn’t really fit in. As much as it freaks me out, I’m considering joining the Romance Writer’s of America group, which boasts ten thousand plus members and provides opportunities to connect authors to agents and publishers. If I join, I’ll probably spend more on membership dues than I’ll ever earn in royalty checks, but connecting to other romance authors might be worth it. There are chapters in every state and they host meetings once or twice a month. Remember, I hate networking and promoting myself, but I want to get into the big publishing houses more. It’s all about compromise.
Q: Did you use your real name for publishing and, if not, how did you choose your penname?
A: I write under a penname. I live in a very conservative state. I couldn’t just announce, “I write erotica!” That wouldn’t go over well. Most of my friends love me for who I am and wouldn’t dream of judging me. It’s everyone else I have to worry about. Not just for me, but for my family as well. It takes me a while to trust someone enough to ‘come out’ about my secret obsession. My friends have called me September for years, so it doesn’t really feel like a penname.
Q: I read an article a few weeks back on two women who specifically researched what erotica niche sold well and where they basically engineered their writing to what ‘sold’. It’s the other side of the coin of your story where you actively pursue publishing a story you love, but you do that in a context of an industry that’s rather unapologetic about ‘sex sells and that’s what we’re selling’. At the end of the journey, how much of the creative was sacrificed for commercial viability? Was it something you could live with or were there regrets?
A: I regret the changes I had to make to my first book because they were too squicky, but I wanted to be published more. So I conceded.
I know exactly what you’re talking about, and I know a few authors who capitalize on what’s hot and what sells. The problem I have with that is if I don’t have a passion for the characters or story, I can’t write it. Even if it sells, I can’t write that male dom bullshit that’s laced through Fifty Shades. I write women who are equals, not doormats. I think the public opinion of women needs to change, especially when it comes to sexuality, and I’m writing what I can to help change that…one book at a time. 🙂 End rant.