Ignoring the Impostor Syndrome

We all felt it one time or another, the insidious whisper inside our head that says, “You’re an impostor“. “How dare you stand among the great ones? What right do you have to be here? What makes you qualified to dish out advice?” You know the whispers–or sometimes loud screams in your mind.

Writers are particularly vulnerable to this. How many of us have been part of a book event where you have big names in your genre at a table five feet away from yours? It’s both exhilarating and depressing because on one hand you’re excited you’re breathing the same air as some of your literary idols while at the same time being depressed for feeling you don’t measure up to them.

Measuring up

Recently I was invited to co-present at a local, small writer’s conference. My first reaction was to say yes, but then that nagging feeling came whispering again–what can you possibly say about writing that others would think interesting or helpful? I said yes anyway because I’ve promised myself a long time ago I’d take on more challenges.

I had been part of panels before, but this was different; this was the two of us running an informative session about the writing business, From Spark to Finish (my co-presenter, talented YA author, PM Hernandez, came up with the catchy title). Between the two of us we have thirteen books published and we have both learned quite a lot in our journey through this business. And yet that doubt, that nettling feeling, was still gnawing at the back of my mind.

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Photo Credit: Jan Rayl

In the end it was a great experience. Turns out we both have quite a bit of helpful information to impart with beginning or aspiring authors, and this was the perfect venue to do so. Hernandez and I have different experiences and perspectives but because of that we were the perfect combination; she’s self-published, I’m a hybrid; she’s a semi-pantser, I’m an all-in pantser. I think I speak for both of us when I say, we had a blast as you can tell by this picture.

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PM Hernandez and me – Photo Credit: Jan Rayl

I’m sure that irksome voice will rise again, but for the moment I’m on Cloud 9, feeling accomplished and worthy. Moral of the story is we all need to ignore those whispers and take risks. When you hear that inner voice again, stick a cork in it and move on. You’ll be so glad you did it.

*Many thanks to Jan Rayl, Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, and Becks Sousa of Write by the Rails for organizing such a great event. And everyone who attended. It was a lot of fun.*

A Writer’s Nightmare

As most of you know, I’m a traditionally published author (small, awesome publishing house). Being the weirdo that I normally am, I wrote a sci-fi/dystopian romance in 2016 told in three POVs and holding two separate romances–one F/M and another M/M, never once stopping to wonder how difficult it would be to market such a book (do you market it to the F/M romance readers, or the M/M?). The first sign that I was in trouble was when friends or beta readers began complaining about different things–too much romance (the sci-fi readers), too much sci-fi (the romance readers), main characters are too sexual, main characters are not sexual enough, it’s too intense, it’s not intense enough… I had one reader that actually tried to change the whole thing including the way I write and erase my voice. Holy shit!

After I submitted it to my publisher, I was told what I already suspected–that I either changed the manuscript radically, which meant breaking it into two separate romances, or they couldn’t publish it because of the potential marketing nightmare. At that point I had to totally agree with them. I had poured my heart and soul into this manuscript (which at times was emotionally very difficult to write) and I wasn’t willing to change it at that time. I was not being arrogant, just overwhelmed with it all. For me that story was one and I couldn’t imagine breaking it into two. It would be like leaving a part of myself behind.

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The manuscript had already gone through one round of professional edits, but after I had unsuccessfully tried to modified it to better fit the marketing woes, I knew it was back to a mess. So I hired my usual editor for another round of edits with the growing idea (which terrified me) of self-publishing it in the future. Unfortunately, my editor  broke the trust I had in him by doing an extremely superficial edit and taking off with my money. I may be trusting but I also know when I’ve been had.

I had a couple more people read it for content feedback and I was again disappointed that no one was willing to read my manuscript to the end. Beta readers were giving up after a couple chapters. It didn’t bode well. I almost gave up on the idea of publishing it. But in the end I couldn’t give up on my characters and the world I created. I felt I owed it to them to stay the course.

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I contacted a book cover designer I have admired for a few years and asked them to design my cover. I was delighted with the results. That cover is amazing (cover reveal to come in the near-ish future).

I changed a few things according to suggestions and critiques from others, tightened up the writing (I have a tendency to be wordy), and hired another editor to do a final round. After the edits were done, I went over it again twice, tightening it even more, paranoid as I am now that my writing truly sucks. I went over it once more after a friend of mine had formatted it for publication (and amazing friend that she is, she was willing to do it again after subsequent changes).

My book now has an ISBN and I have to choose a publication date in the next couple days. I’m already paralyzed by all I will have to do. Because I have a couple more books releasing this year, there is a very short window to publish this one so it doesn’t conflict with the others. Which means I have to do it within the next month or so.

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My nightmare is not over yet because after suffering so many setbacks and getting bad feedback for two years, I’m terrified of how the public is going to respond to it. I have now invested more money into this book than possibly all my other six together and, being my first self-pub, I’m sailing in uncharted waters from where I expect a monster to jump out at any moment.

Do you think I did the right thing sticking by my story or was I a total dunce and should have just scrapped it?

Writing Warrior

Writing is not for the faint of heart. What looks like an innocuous activity, perfect for an introvert, is in fact a minefield for those who like me, doubt themselves at every step and suffer from bouts of depression and/or anxiety. I speak not of the actual writing but of the publishing—the exposure of your writing to the scrutiny of others, the opening yourself to criticism. If you already doubted yourself beforehand, wait until your words are being read by total strangers, people who may have a total different view from yours, people who may not connect with your characters or your story the way you’d expected them to.

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Then there are the sales–or lack thereof. I torture myself on a daily basis by checking my rankings. As a traditionally published author I don’t have access to actual numbers until the royalties come in–or as I call it, Total Depression Day. When my books are on the bottom of the ranks (which happens way too often) I feel it as a personal criticism, a statement of how much my writing really stinks. “Nobody likes my books” or “I suck at writing” are common thoughts running through my mind as I watch that cruel graph line plunging toward its death.

I do bounce back, mostly because writing has been my passion since I was a little girl with too many stories in my head and no one willing to listen to them. So after I cry for a while, I wipe my tears, drink a strong cup of coffee, and write on.

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My mom always told me that the only thing you can’t hope to change is death, so as long as there is life, there is hope. I hang on to that hope for dear life and I keep going. And who knows? Maybe one day my books will actually sell well.

Disappointed

I’ll admit it. I’m disappointed. No. I am in fact even a little depressed. I did not expect to be an overnight success or even a success at all. I did expect however to sell a reasonable quantity of books and—shame on me for being so naïve—I did expect my publisher to pick up my second book. Not because I thought I am all that as a writer. But because I believed that would make good business sense. First books rarely put a writer on the map. However second and third ones normally do a lot better. So, in my newbie-no-business-sense mind I thought the publisher would not drop me like a hot potato until at least the second book. Wrong! I was dropped like a giant sack of potatoes in flames right after the first one.

It didn’t sell well and I don’t have the monetary resources to hire PAs to do my marketing for me. I have to, just like thousands of other authors, rely on myself and the kindness of other writers to market myself and my book. It’s a full time job on top of the other two full time jobs I have; teacher and writer. Which I would gladly do if I knew I had somewhere to publish the other books I have written in the meantime.

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To add to all the disappointment there is also a sense of time running out. Everybody knows that there is a “shelf life” for authors. The longer it takes for them to publish the next book, the less chances they have of good sales (unless of course you accidentally write the next Harry Potter). My first book was published in January and even though I am trying my best to keep it alive (even though it is kind of unconscious right now) while I desperately look for a publisher for my second and third novel, I know that if I do publish in the next year or so I will be pretty much starting from scratch again. And that, my friends, sucks—if you’ll forgive the vernacular.

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Anyone out there who was dropped after his/her first book? How did you bounce back? I have no intentions of hanging my writer’s hat. Writing is a bit too important for me and my sanity to drop it like that. However I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do from here on. I am doing the obvious things; submitting to every moving agent and publisher under the sun (minus the ones whose books have the most horrible covers in the market), advertising my first book everywhere I can think of and afford…I am even having some “face time” with two agents next Fall.

Of course, there is always the self-pub option…

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