Saturday, March 30, 2019

Fear by E. B. Davis

I started writing about ten years ago. Early on, I had success getting my short stories published in various anthologies. Writing was fun. 

After writing short stories for a few years, I knew I had to push myself to the next level and write novels. My plotting tended toward the complex. I liked to read novels with multiple POVs so instead of one plot line, my outlines looked like a city planner’s diagram of coordinated stoplights, paralleling and intersecting the characters movements. They took a long time to write, but when they were finished I was happy with them. They were the type of books I liked to read. Not cookie cutter. Of course, I also learned they aren’t ever really finished.

I got involved in exchanging manuscripts with other writers, and I learned not all beta readers are equal. Some are not able to read outside of their own genres. But the helpful beta readers enabled me to pinpoint weak points and aided in revision. I took classes and wrote cover copy and summaries for my novels along with cover letters to agents. My first manuscript must have impressed some agents. I was asked for partials and one for a full manuscript. All in all, I tried perhaps twelve agents. Some ignored me. One asked for an exclusive and then ignored me for months. I also realized that since my books weren’t cookie cutter, telling agents where they would place it on the shelf wasn’t an easy task. Agents wanted new and fresh, but without my having a publishing track record, no one would take a chance with a newbie. I gave up and concentrated on my second manuscript. 

The second manuscript was a paranormal mystery. It was not as well received by beta readers as the first manuscript, and when that one went nowhere, I became discouraged. I continued to write short stories, but trying to step up my game, I submitted to more professional publishers without success. I became more discouraged.

For a time, I couldn’t write fiction. I wrote a blog or two and continued with my interviews of other authors. I know that paranoia can destroy you, but the fear of rejection stopped me in my keyboard. Last year, I wrote a short story that came to me fait accompli. I knew the beginning, middle, and end before I wrote the first word. It was fun. I submitted it, but I haven’t found out yet if it has been accepted. I’m not holding my breath.

After New Year’s, Grace Topping, who had beta read my first manuscript, prompted me to market my first novel again. It had to have been four or five years since she read it. I was amazed she even remembered it. But her urging me to go-for-it, has motivated me to start the query process again. I’m having to break through that wall of fear that has made writing a terrifying process. I want it to be fun again because I don’t think you can write well while feeling fear.

Have you broken through fear? How did you do it?


  1. Elaine, I'm right behind you on the querying train.

    Interacting with agents at the Midwest Writers Workshop gave me a thick hide. Along the way, I learned what agents consider women's fiction, upmarket fiction, domestic suspense, and thrillers. At least one agent has done a complete turnaround and now has mysteries on her preferred genre list.

    We've got this!

  2. It is a struggle to keep going. That does not change.

  3. It's a tough go out there.

    To a certain extent, the question arises: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish?

    Some people write for money, and some people manage to make a good living at it.

    But I think many of us write for our own satisfaction, and want to share our work with an audience.

    To complain that "I would have made more per hour working at a fast food restaurant" is akin to community theater actors complaining that they, too, would have made more money putting in the time at such a job rather than the hours spent rehearsing. Of course they would have.

    I think a lot of the fear is because we lay ourselves out so nakedly for all the world to see, and invite criticism. For many of us, that's an uncomfortable thought.

  4. I agree with Kathleen. The fear is because we lay ourselves out there for the world to see. There's also another fear once you get published, what if the first book was a fluke? In the end, again echoing Kathleen, it is all about why do you write. And about the magnet on my refrigerator - Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Rock it, Elaine, I've read and enjoyed your first book!

  5. Thanks everyone. What I've concluded is that to be successful you have to write to the market. Most of the agents I contacted wanted only cozies. There has to be life beyond cozies. I love cozies, but I don't want to read only cozies. Nope--my books don't have over sex or violence, and only have mild swearing. One problem I'm encountering is that I have three POVs. Everyone seems put off by that. I've always liked reading multiple POV books. Both of my manuscripts have multiple POVS! I don't know....

  6. Elaine, that was a brave column to write. If you can do that, you can sure write a novel.

  7. Was it Ricky Nelson who sang, "You can't please everyone, you have to please yourself"? I'm in the process of completing book 3 of a cozy contract (for Lyrical Press) that has 2 POVs. They're not a no-no! I think that, for a long time, Berkley Prime Crime had a lock on that market, but they cast off most of their writers and the genre has relaxed a lot. My non-cozies only find small publishers, but I love writing them anyway, so I do it.

  8. Years ago I gave up sending my manuscripts to publishers. Instead I found several people who were willing to edit my work and I edited theirs, too. Then there was a Guppy, whose name I forget now, who self-published her own work and so I started doing that and have been quite content with that route even though I'm not going to win any awards, I have quite a following now of those who enjoy my books and are bugging me to hurry up and finish my tenth book which I'm working on now. I'm lucky to have a step granddaughter-in-law who does beautiful covers, too. I write because I love to write. Recently, I started reading all the books I wrote from the first to the latest books that I've published and I realized I really like the books I've written. Once I finished reading all nine of them, I got back to working on my tenth book making sure I put some of the characters in my earlier books back in. My editing friends are always happy when previous characters come back into my books. I don't get a lot of money although I do get checks from Amazon every so often, but I also sell my books to local friends who enjoy my books, too. Again I don't make a lot that way either since I have to buy my own books from Amazon at a little less than others would pay for them.

  9. Elaine -- cozies are a subset of the mystery/thriller genre and don't represent what I write or read. I don't believe in writing to market for two reasons. 1. Markets change quickly and so you can be writing to a subgenre no longer of interest to readers, and 2. Your heart isn't in it (unless your only motivation is writing for money) and your best works are the ones in which you believe.

    The worst thing writers do to themselves is think their writing isn't good enough. What we often forget is that the "greats" in our field didn't sell their first, second, or third novel. I remember listening to Sue Grafton talk about all the books she wrote before A is for Alibi. I can't remember the number, but I'm pretty sure you need both hands to count them.

    I beat myself up too frequently. I must admit that it never does me a damn bit of good.

    Fight through your doubts, Elaine. We're all with you.

  10. Today I heard Jessica Strawser deliver her first lecture as Librarian in Residence for the Cincinnati/Hamilton County system. I'll write a blog on everything she covered, but she said something interesting: "It doesn't matter how old your protagonist is. In fact, I'm thinking about writing a book about an older woman."

    Strawser writes mystery/domestic suspense stand-alone hybrids.

  11. Keep working at it, Elaine. Your work is good. You just have to find the right agent and publisher. Easier said than done, but you can't find them if you don't look. So keep looking.