Friday, October 05, 2007

Guest Blogger Rachel Vincent

It's good to be one of the Playfriends. You always get to meet cool new people. At this year's RWA conference, I ran across a brand new author signing her books at the Harlequin/Silhouette booksigning. She had a glow I was completely envious of and the book looked awesome. I immediately had her sign a copy for the Playground. (The autographed copy of Stray will be the prize for one of today's commenters!) Make room on the swingset for today's guest blogger, Rachel Vincent!

Sometimes it’s better not to know…

As a newly published author, I get lots of questions, mostly from other writers trying to break into publishing. They want to know how I did it. How did I get published? How did I find an agent? How did I decide what to write about? How did I know I was ready for publication?

The answer to all of the above is surprisingly simple: I didn’t know anything. Seriously. At first, I knew nothing about publishing, and much less about writing itself than I thought I did. And for me, that was the key. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.


I’ve been a member of RWA for two years now, but I was writing for more than a year before that. I wrote my first novel in complete isolation. I didn’t tell anyone I was writing. I didn’t read any how-to books or take any writing classes. I didn’t have any critique partners or belong to any on-line forums. I didn’t even have an internet connection.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, I needed to approach writing a novel with a cushion of ignorance.

CPs are a wonderful resource for an aspiring author (I have an awesome one right now), and organizations like RWA can be invaluable for those who are ready to approach the business side of the industry. But in the beginning, every writer deserves a chance to write whatever and however she wants, without someone looking over her shoulder and whispering well-meaning but defeatist advice.

As you write your first novel, you do not need to hear how passive your voice is, how many adverbs you’re using, and that your genre just isn’t selling right now. All of that will come into play later, and it will sting. A lot. But until then, and in preparation for that, what you need is a huge dose of confidence, and there’s no better way to get that than by writing your first book all on your own.

Knowing early on how much work my prose needed, how long querying could take, and how many rejections would come might very well have frustrated me beyond repair. If I’d known how hard it could be, I might have given up without even trying.

But since I didn’t know, I wrote my first novel in one long, fevered burst of creativity, convinced that all 140,000 words were carefully crafted brilliance—the story every editor in the country didn’t yet know she was looking for.

I was wrong; I know that now. That novel wasn’t publishable, and won’t be, without serious work. But it was exactly what I needed at the time. A sort of practice novel with which I could develop my voice and exercise my plotting skills without worrying about things like formatting, querying, or even polishing.

It worked so well that I dove right into the sequel for a second (extra) dose of self-confidence. And that’s when I started learning to polish, and tighten, and write query letters, and seek opinions. By that point I was already hooked on writing, and no amount of rejection or carelessly worded criticism could scare me away.

I never submitted those first two novels. They’re still buried on my hard drive until I find the time and patience to dust them off and polish them up. But what I learned from those two books—written in the peace and quiet of my own imagination—gave me the confidence to submit my third novel, Stray which is now the first in a six book series.

So if you’re in that beginner phase and getting frustrated over all the details, maybe what you need to do is step back and retreat into your own head, into that blissful silence where naysayers dare not tread.

Let the words come however they will. They can be fixed and polished later.

For now, simply finding them is enough. And trust me—it feels good. ;-)

Check out Rachel's website and blog for more information on her books. Be sure to comment today to get your chance to win an autographed copy of Stray. The winner will be announced on Monday's blog.


SP

31 comments:

robynl said...

"If I’d known how hard it could be, I might have given up without even trying." How true that if we take the plunge and don't continually look for the negative things that might happen we surge forward and create things often. Most often it is best to not know the pitfalls.
Congrats on this book and the following ones.

KimW said...

I think being persistent pays off in most things in life. Congratulations on getting your books published. I love those covers!

Smarty Pants said...

Welcome to the Playground, Rachel. I have to agree that writing seemed easier when I didn't know everything I was doing wrong. I've finally gotten to the point where I know what I can ignore, what I can fix later, etc., so my speed has improved.

Can you tell us a little about your book series? I read on your blog that you've gotten a second 3 book contract to continue the stories. That's awesome.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Rachel! Very nice and inspiring post. I agree that writing in that cocoon is so wonderful. When I got the most sidetracked was when I joined a critique group who immediately began telling me I couldn't do this or that and that 150K novels wouldn't sell. They were right about the 150K, of course, but it was still fun to write, even with the stops and starts brought on by lack of confidence.

Now, I think I spend too much time thinking about where my novel fits and if I'm on the "right" track.

Thanks for being here, and congrats on your books. :)

Problem Child said...

Hi Rachel! Thanks for coming by!

I love this advice. I entered my first RWA contest waaay too soon. The negative feedback crushed me and I didn't write anything for a long time. I didn't even finish that book.

Ignorance is bliss--at least until you have the confidence to know "Hey! I wrote a book!"

(Notice I didn't say "a good book" ~grin~)

Jen said...

Congrats on the 6-book series!! And in the business if you consider the odds, well, it's just better not too. :-)))

Instigator said...

Welcome to the Playground, Rachel!

Wonderful advice. I wrote my first book in 4 weeks with a 1 yr old under foot. It felt fantastic. And then I found an online group, joined RWA and learned the rules. My creativity was stiffled for a really long time.

This business is tough. When it comes right down to it, it doesn't matter what trends are out there, what rules you're breaking or what publishers aren't buying. The most important thing is the writing. Thanks for that reminder today!

And I absolutely LOVE your cover.

Instigator

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Rachel,

I love an author who glows!!! It means you love what you do. :D

Thanks for the writer's advice!!!

Hugs, JJ

Playground Monitor said...

Oh man, do I ever hear you. Before I learned the "rules" I wrote and wrote and wrote. Now I question every sentence. Have I jumped out of POV? Would a guy really talk like this? What's their GMC? Ignorance really IS bliss at first.

Congratulations on your successes, and yes, tell us more about yourself and your books.

PM

Kathy said...

Welcome to the playground, Rachel! Awesome covers! I'm impressed by how quickly you've written your books and found a publisher in 3 years.

Where do you get your ideas for this six book series?

From your own experience, how much time do you suggest a writer invest in improving their craft?

What advice can you give other writers about moving forward after having written those first books?
And when do you know it's time to move on?

Try the merry-go-round, it's great fun! ;-)

Kathy

bellegjw said...

That was very inspirational. I really loved you covers. I will definetely buy it. Congrats!
Belle

Rachel Vincent said...

Hi guys, and thanks! I love the covers too. Especially the new one (Rogue). I still stare at it on a daily basis.

About my books... Well, if you insist... ;-)

My werecat books are a six-book urban fantasy series (the second 3-book deal was offered in July, and it's so new I haven't even seen the contract yet!) about a female werecat named Faythe Sanders.

In the beginning, Faythe is young and kind of spoiled from a lifetime of being indulged and coddled by her brothers and fellow werecats, because female werecats (tabbies) are rare and much-needed. In Stray, Faythe comes face-to-face with some difficult choices and consequences which force her to grow up and start taking responsibility for not only herself, but for others who need her.

It's full of action and threaded throughout with a reunion-type romance.

The first sequel, Rogue, comes out in April, and I'm so excited, even though it's six months away! ;-)

Rachel Vincent said...

Hi Kathy, and thank you! I tend to do my rough drafts pretty quickly, but it typically takes me forever to polish them. ;-)

"Where do you get your ideas for this six book series?"

The first book (STRAY) just kind of happened. I sat down with little more than a main character in mind, and she kind of stumbled her way through a plot that developed as I went. Then, during the six (yes, 6!) rewrites, I painstakingly trimmed out all the stuff that turned out not to be necessary.

So far, each of the sequels' plots have developed from elements of the world building and character conflicts that popped up in STRAY. I've fully outlined and plotted every book I've written since STRAY, to make sure I'm not forgetting anything, and to cut down on the number of rewrites. After all, now I have actual deadlines. ;-)

"From your own experience, how much time do you suggest a writer invest in improving their craft?"

I think it's less an issue of time as of experience. I recommend at least two "practice" novels (though you can always go back and submit them later, once you've got your foot in the door) with which to cut your teeth your writing skills, before even thinking about querying. Writing is just like everything else worth doing: it takes plenty of practice, and the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it.

"What advice can you give other writers about moving forward after having written those first books?"

Oooh, that's a tough one, because it's going to vary from writer to writer. But if you truly believe the book you have polished is ready to submit, I'd say keep throwing it at the wall until it sticks somewhere. But along with that, be prepared to rewrite according to any advice you get from professionals (agents and editors), assuming you agree it will help the book, rather than hurt it.

But the real key is not to stop writing once you're submitting. While you're querying one novel, write another. Always have something in progress (it's equally important to actually finish them!), because even if it doesn't sell, the experience is invaluable. ;-)

"And when do you know it's time to move on?" That I can't really answer. I never submitted my first too books, in part because it would take an incredible amount of time and effort to polish them up to my current standard of writing. But the other reason was that they just aren't marketable right now.

If you're getting lots of close-calls, I don't think I'd ever give up on that book. I might set it aside until the market changes, but I'd never really forget about it. But if you're getting only form rejections (and I got tons of those on Stray), take a break from submitting and see if you can find out why it's not getting requests. Then do another rewrite and start submitting again.

That's what I'd do, anyway. Though your milage may vary. ;-)

Angel said...

Welcome to the Playground, Rachel! I wrote a lovely post earlier, and it must have been tasty because Blogger ate it!!! Hate that.

I've noticed now that I have to try to get back to that isolation period in order to get my books written. Block out the critiques, plotting, suggestions, and even my internal editor has to go! Otherwise I'd never get anywhere. I'd be stopping to fix things all the time.

So I search for that isolation while I'm doing the first draft, reminding myself I can always fix it later. Right now I just need to get the story on the page. It gets lonely sometimes, but so worth it when the story starts to "flow"!

Thanks for the inspiring post today!

Angel

BethRe said...

Very inspirational thanks for sharing

Playground Monitor said...

Can you define urban fantasy? I keep hearing those words along with post-apocalyptic and well... I'm still wrapping my mind around the old genres.

Thanks.

PM

Rachel Vincent said...

Sure. These days, when you hear urban fantasy, it probably refers to books set in the modern earth (be it urban or rural) world, that contains creatures of fantasy. You see lots of vampires, shapeshifters, witches, demons, etc...

Some popular authors in the genre include Kim Harrison, Kelley Armstrong, Charlaine Harris, and Jim Butcher. There are also dozens of new authors (like me) coming out in the next year or so.

If you want a long list of (mostly new) authors in the genre, check out Fangs, Fur, and Fey, an LJ community I belong to. Sorry, I can't figure out how to make the link work, but you can google it, or take the link from one of my blogs.

Hope that helps!

CrystalG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CrystalG said...

Great post. Persistence does pay off. I love your book covers. They are great.

Ayla said...

I think i know too much about the process now, still podding along with my first novel though. heres hoping.

anne said...

Wonderful post which resounds with life and its hurdles. Determination and hard work succeeds. Congrats on the wonderful series and all the best.

Rachel Vincent said...

Thank you all for such a kind welcome. You ladies have a wonderful readership here. ;-)

Stacy S said...

Congrats on the 6 book deal! The covers on the first 2 are great.

Cathy said...

Had a great time touring your website and reading the excerpt for Stray. I always love an ass-kicking gal, and have had your book on my wish list for awhile.

Sue A. said...

Thank you for sharing your inspirational success story. I have noticed your covers previously as being artistically beautiful and unique in styling and now I have a name to remember with them as I now know something about your journey to be a writer.

Shari C said...

Welcome, Rachel, and thank you for the interesting information and inspiration.

I have had the pleasure of reading STRAY and thoroughly enjoyed it. Can't wait for ROGUE and the rest of the series. Congratulations on these great stories.

catslady said...

I'm not a writer but as a reader I always find it fascinating how authors get started. Thanks for the insight.

Kathy said...

I'm writing this knowing how late it is and hoping you'll see my post.

Wow! Thanks for answering all my questions, Rachel. You've really given me food for thought. I appreciate all your advice.

Good luck with your series!!

Kathy

tetewa said...

Good luck on your book series and all your upcoming releases!

Tez Miller said...

Many thanks to Rachel for her insightful entry, and I'd love to win a signed STRAY, please :-)

Have a lovely day! :-)

amy*skf said...

Of course, late to the party. But I have a copy of Stray already, so it's okay. Rachel, I was hoping you were going to say you didn't have to actually finish the first two books you write...can you guess why?

Oh well, you've still given me inspiration and excitement to start reading your book and finish mine.

Marilyn, Urban Fantasy is probably my favorite genre--every author Rachel listed I've read.