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Internal Conflicts

In the last month, I've been stuck debating myself.

It's not something that I like to do, but I turned in Below, and I told myself after that I would begin working on a new novel. Unfortunately, I don't approach the idea clean, free, and feeling as if I can do anything that I want, and that in itself creates a problem. I've blogged a couple of of times about the experience of trying to sell Under the Red Sun, the last time being the Angry Robot experience, which is of no real importance now. I'm still knocking on doors, but the truth is, it's time to start creating something new, in the hope that I can sell that, too--but the last year I've spent trying to find a new agent with the Red Sun novel, with and without the 'almost' sold tag on it, have left their mark on me. Through friends and just plain cold calling (so to say--I never actually call anyone) I've gone through a fair chunk of agents. Most have been nice enough--though there's been the ones who never replied, and the ones who took months (one took a year) to get back to me, but like I said, most have been very positive. A lot of agents have read the whole book and I have been called a wonderful writer, a genius, and other such useless complimentary terms that pale next to the oft repeated line, 'not commercial'.

That line, I've found, has gotten to be a little. I have half a dozen ideas running round in my head at any given time, and as I've moved on to the self imposed deadline of starting a new novel, that tag of poor commercial appeal has been hard to shake. I don't honestly believe it--I think all my ideas and everything I write has mass appeal, who doesn't?--but the truth of it is, I'm a single guy who lives by himself, runs his own part time business, has very little savings, and last week, my TV, my stove, and my heater broke, resulting in a system of 'what can I fix first' world. That's no different to a lot of other people in the world, but I'd rather not live the way that I do forever. I couldn't live that way if I shared my life with anyone (I hate being unable to pay my own way, as it is) and I'd also not like to spend another year writing a novel only to be told, again and again, what a fine writer I am, and if only I had written something commercial, just as I'd like not to have to leech off my friends for introductions, or some advice, you know? I guess what I'm saying is, I'm finding that the last year has left its mark on what I want to do, and I'm not entirely pleased by it.

I'd like to say, nah, fuck it, I'll do what I want, but it's not happening. In the planning stages I find myself saying, a little of this, coupled with that--take out that, have an ending that works on this level, and so on and so forth. It's not a dilution or the original idea because there's lots of ideas, but it feels as if I am second guessing myself, and not letting what I want to do naturally come out, and I have to work against that. Good writing, I believe, comes from your natural instincts, your passions, and your beliefs. It's one of the reasons why a lot of work is bland, and passionless, I find, because the author is trying to hit a note that he or she doesn't feel, or understand.

Myself, I find that making sure I am writing to what I find natural, and my instincts, is a challenge after the last year. It feels as if it's a weakness to acknowledge it, a sense of failure, somehow, but there's not point in denying it.

Ah well.

As challenges go, it's just another part of selling creativity.

(crossposted)

Comments

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benpayne
Jun. 17th, 2010 11:22 am (UTC)
I've had the same debate about my own writing hundreds of times. The cure is usually to start trying to write something I think is commercially saleable, then to realise how absolutely crap I am at writing that sort of thing :-)

It's difficult not to be impacted by those thoughts though.

What sort of things did people describe as hard to sell about your work? Any specifics?
benpeek
Jun. 17th, 2010 11:35 am (UTC)
usually, it's too dark. the complaint's kinda dogged me since i started writing, though.
benpayne
Jun. 17th, 2010 11:56 am (UTC)
It's always odd that too dark argument. Because looking at the bestselling fantasy novels I've read lately; George Martin, Steven Eriksen, Dan Simmons... all pretty damn dark.

Still, maybe you just need a puppy in there?
benpeek
Jun. 17th, 2010 01:10 pm (UTC)
perhaps. but i'd probably just kill it and then eat it ;)
mondyboy
Jun. 17th, 2010 12:10 pm (UTC)
Mate, have you thought of going the Cat Valente or Tim Pratt route of self publishing. Or possibly self publish via Lulu.

I definitely buy your novel if it was available. I know you might struggle to get as many as 200 sales... but by fuck it's gotta be a start, yeah?
benpeek
Jun. 17th, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)
the problem is i don't really have the money to do that properly. i'd need to hire an editor, and to get a good cover artist, and then put the money into sending out review copies (most of which wouldn't be reviewed traditionally). it might be something worth doing once i got more money and rep behind me, but to do it now...
mondyboy
Jun. 17th, 2010 01:17 pm (UTC)
I can understand that. Though I'm sure you've got mates who'd help with the editing side. Though, the cover might be harder to organise.

And I'm not sure you need to rely on trad reviewing. There are plenty of punters on the interwebs who would review the book after reading it.

And if not Lulu, there's also the old podcast model, or just putting the book up for free - creative commons like - and getting a buzz.

I can se not all those models are going to suit you. But the thing is, I think there are affordable options around that you can use. And I think you've got enough cred at the moment that people aren't going to turn around and say, "hey, there's another loon online selling his big fan fantasy book."
benpeek
Jun. 17th, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
the problem with creative commons is you have to have an established audience to get the proper buzz you want, or have the right connections to promote it. i don't have a big enough audience to translate it out successfully, or know the right people to pimp it.

but, i guess maybe my original post is not clear--given enough time, i'll see the red sun book and get cash for it, which is important to me, crass as it seems. and that's the main problem with self publishing thru lulu and such--i doubt i'd make any real money out of it.
cassiphone
Jun. 17th, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
The truth is that no one knows what will sell! And the words people use to explain why they don't THINK something will sell are often the same words people use to describe a book that they do think will sell. It's a hard business because of that, especially now that the market seems more cautious than at times in the past.

All you can do is write something that is you, absolutely you, that you really are excited about, and that is the best way to write a book that other people will want to read.

It sounds like it is definitely time to put Red Sun behind you and move on to the next Peek novel - which could be the one that not only gets you an agent/publisher but also the one that sells Red Sun! If that book isn't the foot in the door then all you can do is write the next one. I know it feels like a wasted year, but it's really not - every book you write is part of your story and part of you growing as a writer and just because it's not selling now doesn't mean all hope is lost for it. It just means - time to move on to the next thing.

It's hard, really hard to stop second guessing yourself about "what people want" but ultimately no one knows what the next big thing is going to be. Some books have sold and done well that appeared to be desperately uncommercial.

Ultimately trying to make a career as a writer is such a hard thing to do that trying to write anything other than books that are completely YOU is not an effective use of energy!
benpeek
Jun. 17th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
it's really not a question of putting the book behind. it sold (well, to a degree) once, it'll do it again. it might take a bit more time, but it's a good book, and there's a lot of untried folk. but while you hustle one book, you got to keep moving, and once you exhaust one avenue, there's always a couple more to go down. so i'm not really concerned bout that. it'll just take time.

of course, the year was wasted, really. i mean, i didn't really grow as a writer or person while being turned down, finding the wrong agent, and wrong publishers before--in the end, it just resulted in myself not working, and while you learn from it, it does mean a year is wasted. a year with nothing out is alwasy a year wasted.

but perhaps that's just me, and how i veiw it. i always been strict on myself, out of motivation.

lucius_t
Jun. 17th, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
Keep pushing that stone, man.

On another note, I didn't know where to put this so here will do....


http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2010/06/the-government-now-wants-isps-to-link-your-online-history-with-your-passport/
benpeek
Jun. 18th, 2010 08:12 am (UTC)
oh, that's just lovely, that...
lucius_t
Jun. 18th, 2010 01:44 pm (UTC)
Thought you'd appreciate that. Creepy.
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