In the Future, Tense

May 27, 2010

Finishing — Part 2: The Fear of Failure

One of the great contradictions of professional writing is that it attracts control freaks, and then removes almost all control from them.  You’ve got very little control over what will sell, or if, or how.  Once it does sell you’ve got very little say in anything related to production, publicity or package.

The one thing we do have control over is the story itself, and that’s the important part, right?  So it’s okay to obsess over it.  In fact, it’s vital to obsess over it.  Every word must be carefully chosen and placed, and it must be rewritten and rewritten until it is perfect, no matter how long it takes.  Right?

Ummm…right.  Up to a point.  At some point you just have to declare it done.  It’ll never be perfect.  Perfection doesn’t exist, especially not for the author because you know where all the seams are and the location of each and every buried body.  The more you rewrite the more seams and buried bodies there are going to be.  You just have to dig deep and say it’s good enough, and let it go.

The inability to stop rewriting is one of the manifestations of the great writing fear; fear of failure.



May 24, 2010

Finishing — Part One: The Fear is Real

I’ve done a lot of talking about writing and publishing.  I’ve talked about how to find ideas, how to perfect ideas, how to find your market, put together a professional manuscript and query letter and send it out.  In all this time, I’ve said there’s one thing I don’t know how to teach, and that’s how to finish.  I don’t mean how to write an ending.  I mean how to finish, to complete a manuscript, stop writing it, declare that it is as good as you can get it, and get it out the door.

I’ve never had a problem with this aspect of the craft/business.  I write, I finish, I send out, I start the next.  I started doing this in high school, and I’ve been doing it ever since.  And I pray to all the divinities who take pity upon fools and writers that I never will lose this ability.

But I’ve seen plenty of people who can’t manage it.  They are talented writers with solid ideas, and they just can’t, or won’t finish.  There can be a number of reasons for this.  Finding out how much work writing actually is is a big one.  Or Real Life might toss a major detour in your way.  These things happen.  But there are reasons beyond this.  Of these, the biggest, the most persistent, is fear.

So I thought I’d do a series about fear as it relates to writing, talk some about what it is, and what it isn’t, and maybe look at some ways to deal with it.


May 20, 2010


Filed under: business of writing,CL Anderson,Uncategorized,writing,writing life — carolynanderson09 @ 7:16 pm
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And another deadline bites the dust…

The proposal for THE CLOCKWORK CUCKOO is finished, and in the email to Bantam.  Cross your fingers, folks.

Now onto the next romance for Berkley.

Busy, busy, busy…

May 17, 2010

Be a Hoarder

Dear CL:

Whatever happened to that Deep Water Whale romance you sent me awhile ago?  I was having lunch today with T. Editor, and he’s actively looking for whale-themed romance

Yr. Agent.

Okay, this is not the actual email my agent sent.  But it is close, and I got it just a week ago.  My response:

Erm…nothing happened to it.  Do you need a fresh copy of the proposal?

She said yes, I went back to my files and it turned out I had not just a proposal, but a completed mss.  Wow.  When had I written that?  Thinking back, I remembered I’d written it at the request of an editor who subsequently rejected it.  V. upsetting.  But I didn’t throw out the offending mss.  I put it in a file, and I kept it.  Because I knew the odds were decent that something like the above would be coming in eventually.

This was something else I learned early on.  Never EVER throw anything out.  Keep the scraps, keep the snippets, and above all, if you’ve finished a project, keep it.  Even if it never sold.  Especially if it never sold.

Back in the day when I was strictly a denizen of the short story zone, I wrote a deal-with-the-devil story set in the old west.  I have an unhealthy fascination with deals-with-the-devil, and I’d just read a good book on old west gamblers and nature took its course.*

It was only after I started sending it around that I found out fantasy editors did not share my fascination.  It must have gone to 20 publications, and gathered an equal number of rejections.  So, with many a gentle tear, my masterpiece went into the drawer (yes, this was back in the days when the submission process was still mostly paper.  Thank G*D those days are done), and it stayed there for two solid years.  Until…I got word a new magazine, REALMS OF FANTASY was opening, and actively buying.  My story came out of the drawer and went into the envelope.   This time, it sold, for a decent rate per word too.

Since then, I’ve saved just about everything.  Even if a market doesn’t appear for the work in its current form, I do flip through the archives from time to time and see what still strikes my imagination.  Ideas and storylines are malleable things and can be reworked.  I (G*d willing!) improve at my craft, and can make improvements, or a good ending to an idea that wasn’t quite there a year, or two, or five ago.   Or, a new market has appeared suddenly (see above), and I have something I was toying around with that might now have a shot.

A metaphoric attic full of mss. and ideas is one of the greatest resources a writer has.  It means you don’t constantly have to start from scratch, and when a new chance comes, you can be one of the first in line to take advantage of it.  So keep them, all of them.  You never know when they’ll come in handy.

*If you want to read the story, “The Redemption of Silky Bill” you can for free under my Sarah Zettel page Book View Cafe.

May 15, 2010

To the Writers Group

Filed under: CL Anderson,Uncategorized,writing,writing life — carolynanderson09 @ 1:18 pm

I belong to a writers group.  Actually, I belong to two.  I’ve been a member of the first one for…years now.  At least part of every novel I’ve written has gone through it to be pulled apart and minutely examined.

Now, I am one of those writers who believes creativity is one of those things one does behind closed doors, in private.  Despite that, I’ve also decided to try an experiment.  From time to time I’ll be posting at least part of my current submission to my writers group.  There will be rough drafts, bits and pieces, experiments, rewrites and dead ends, so no guarantees on the quality.  Also, no guarantees that what’s here will bear any resemblence to the published book, or that what’s seen here wlll ever be published.

But here’s the first submission:  THE CLOCKWORK CUCKOO, Chapter 1, pt. 1.



Filed under: Uncategorized,writing,writing life — carolynanderson09 @ 12:59 pm
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Sequels can be a risky business, both writing them and reading them.  A book one absolutely adored can be spoiled, or at least seriously damaged by a weak sequel.

One reason I’m thinking about this because I just read such a sequel.  A few years ago now, I was given a YA book called INGO by Helen Dunmore, about a girl on the Cornish coast who discovers her family connection with the local mermaid population.  It was a good book, well-written and compelling.  But I was slow off the mark looking for the sequel, THE TIDE KNOT, and it sort of came and went without me.  But I finally found it at my local indie bookstore (yet another reason to shop indies), brought it home and tucked in.

Sigh.  Unfortunately, the author had so many ideas she wanted to pursue: coming of age, split families, environmental change, balance, trust, to name a few, that she didn’t properly follow up on any of them.  The plot was committed in a scattershot fashion and the resolution felt….unresolved.  It didn’t tie back to what the heroine had learned or needed to achieve to do that coming of age thing.


May 12, 2010

Questioning Authority

Is there something about writing; the business, the craft, the life you’ve always wanted to know but has so far remained beyond the reach of your Google-fu?

Ask here.  Keep it clean.  I’ll do my best to answer.  If we get enough questions, we can make a regular feature out of it.

Full Draft – I Haz It!

Filed under: Sarah Zettel,Uncategorized,writing,writing life — carolynanderson09 @ 1:41 pm
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Completed a full draft of A TASTE FOR THE NIGHTLIFE, the first of the Vampire Chef novels, which will be coming out from Penguin Books next summer under the name of Sarah Zettel.

Twenty days early!  Go me!

May 10, 2010

Don’t. Stop. The Writing.

Filed under: business of writing,Uncategorized,writing,writing life — carolynanderson09 @ 11:48 pm

So, today, I got this via email:


Just got an email from BigHouse Books.  They’re agressively seeking paranormal Shakespere sequels.  Have you got anything along these lines?

Yr. Agent.

My response:

As a matter of fact, I reply, I’ve got this project I’ve been working on, THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF JULIET CAPULET.  But it’s a gothic.  Are they taking gothics?

Turned out they were.  I went back to my files and found I had not the start on the proposal I’d thought I had, but the requisite three chapters, plus a bunch of notes for the synopsis.  Huh.  When had I written that?  Obviously when I had the time.

Like the three years I was out of work.


April 8, 2010

The Starting Point

Filed under: CL Anderson,science fiction,writing,writing life — carolynanderson09 @ 4:43 pm
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I have reached a conclusion.

All stories start in the middle.

This is because characters imitate live people in the mind of the author.  There is always a long string of events stretching back before the point of the story’s opening.  You could start with the Big Bang, and the author would picture that infinitely small point quivering with energy and anticipation and work backward through the void before time to understand, to their own satisfaction, how we actually get to God saying “New universe in 3…2…1…”

This was brought home to me yet again while working on the Current Project, and, frankly, getting a whole lot of nowhere.  Usually, this means I don’t know enough about what came before.  This time, I thought I had it worked out, all nice, and for me, relatively neat.  Convinced of this fact (it’s amazing how you can delude yourself about a story, something that is essentially an illusion), I totally missed the big, glaring question I hadn’t asked, and hadn’t tracked back to its source.

My heroine should be dead.  When the story opens, she really shouldn’t be there, and she knows it.  But she is there.


Time to backtrack.

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