Monday, December 22, 2014

Go Away

While evil never sleeps, it does kick back every now and then, and the Evil League of Evil Writers is going to do just that. Today begins our annual holiday hiatus, so things are going even darker than usual around here.

There might be the occasional post of an evil Bob Cratchit member, toiling away over the holidays, but there won't be any regular/consistent/scheduled posts for the next couple weeks.

We here at the Evil League of Evil Writers would like to wish all our readers a very evil holiday season. We're going to be getting up to our own no-goodness for the next few weeks, and will see you all again after our New Year's shenanigans.

You know, after someone has posted our bail.

Your regularly scheduled eviltry will resume Monday, January 5th.

Join us for some new shinies, a new face or two, and other sinister fun we're plotting behind the scenes. Until then, whatever you celebrate (or don't!), may it be filled with evil glee.

The Sithmas Tree of our Gothic Goddess Dina James represents the ELEW holiday spirit!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Baby Evil Writers 101: About Last Year

So you might be thinking about this past year since we’re getting close to 2015. You might be having dark thoughts. Oh my darling babies do not confuse these with evil thoughts because they are not the same thing at all.

Dark thoughts come at you in the night or when your hands are busy wrapping packages. They tell you that you are a loser and that you wasted the year. They whisper that your writing isn’t any better than it was before—that you are made of fail. Dark thoughts can be beaten by evil ones. Oh, yes they can.

Evil is powerful and you need to take those dark thoughts and stomp them hard. Burn them with fire. No really, write them down and then burn them up with fire. Teach your brain that such horrible (not-evil) opinions are only worth burning. Writers have enough obstacles to face without having to fight their own brains.

If you wrote one thing this last year then you are ahead of the year before. Bad stuff happens. Tornadoes suck up houses and floods eat your basement or your husband dances with chainsaws and bears. We don’t have control over all of the things. Sometimes horrible takes over. But the thing you need to remember is that deep down inside, you are an evil writer, and evil will eventually win.

Happy Holidays my sweet babies of evil. Celebrate until you have to post bail—then probably stop.

Love and hugs to all,

Julie Butcher

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Birthday Lieutenant Quillstabber!

Many people forget in the midst of all the holiday cheer going on this month that there are other birthdays besides that of a secular deity to celebrate. One such is that of our dear Melinda Skye, or Lieutenant Quillstabber to those of us at the Evil League of Evil Writers.

Today we celebrate the anniversary of her birth, and you should be celebrating it, too! This year the Lt. spawned a Mini-Evil, so she will be even more formidable than before. There is a level of bad-assery that only mothers can attain, and I do not envy those who come between a mother and their offspring.

So break out the booze and cupcakes. Spike that eggnog and gnaw the head off a snowman cookie! It's Skye's birthday!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Time and Time Again

As this is my last post of 2014, I thought it appropriate to talk about the passage of time.

A lot of people use this part of the year to look back and see all that's gone on (or all that hasn't...), and make plans for next year.

Now, time management is great and all, but in the professional writing business, "time" is a varying concept. Let me explain using a very broad example of a timetable:

Writing of zero draft (this is the draft that just gets the story out - for your eyes only. No, not even your betas get to see this one): a few weeks to a few months (Stephen King recommends "a season" to write.)

Aging between zero draft and first draft revision: six weeks or so

First draft revision: a month or so, sometimes less depending on how cleanly you write

Beta readers: a few days to a few weeks depending on their availability

Revision based on their feedback: varies - let's say a month for shits and giggles

Time elapsed on Project - 7-8 months, give or take. Sometimes less, sometimes more.

For the purposes of this post, let's use 6 months as a baseline, just to make things easier.

So, let's say Project is all pretty and shiny and ready for querying after 6 months of work. (Hint: this is a stellar achievement. Finishing a novel is awesome in its own right, but to have it ready to query in 6 months? Go you! Fuckin' A!)

Now you follow the submission guidelines for each agent you're going to query. Some agents on your list might be closed to queries for whatever reason, so they get put on the back burner until they open again, so there's some waiting there on that. Others that are open have anywhere from a couple days to 3 month response times depending on various factors, so for the purposes of this post, let's go with the longest response time. (Note: This includes "no response means no interest" queries. The agents using a policy of NRNI ["no response, no interest"] usually give a time in their guidelines as to when you should hear back by if they're interested. Look for it.)

So, 6 months to write and polish (and again this is stellar - some authors write faster, some are slower. These are rough estimates, not absolute law. Chill.), and another 3 months wait for a response to your query. That's 3/4 of a year on a single project, right there. 9 months, people. That's enough time to gestate and give birth to a human infant.

Stop laughing - the comparison is apt. You're creating lives, here. Fictional ones, but lives nonetheless. There's a reason many in the writing game refer to their work as "their baby."

But I digress.

Back to the 9 months of Project. Keep in mind that 9 months on Project is barring any accident, illness, injury, or happenstance. This 9 months doesn't account for Life Happening or anything else. This is a bare-bones scenario.

So let's be generous and realistic and give you 3 months for Issues. Now you're up to a year in Project.

Now let us say the stars align, everything is shiny and happy, and Project lands you an agent! WHOO HOO! YEAH, BABY! That's what it's all about! That's what it's all been for! Now- wait, what? What's this? They have suggestions for changes? Oh. Okay. Add another month.

Awesome! They love the changes! Now it's off to sale! (Add another month or three or six, possibly longer, maybe never. But wait! There's more!)

Yay! Project sold! You have a book deal! Awes-wait? What's this?

Oh, would you look at that! A revision letter (or editing letter, or whatever else it might be called by you or your agent or house or whatever)! It's HOW many pages long? No problem. You can knock that out in a couple months if you work hard. Maybe less. What? It's needed back by WHEN? Oh, hell. You'll have to work harder and longer to meet that, but okay, it can happen.


Well, yeah! Commercial publishing is a slow business! "You rush a miracle, you get rotten miracles!"


Because. Because reasons. Because stuff you don't have to concern yourself with, but part of it is because there are other books out there besides yours and you have to wait your turn. That's right. More waiting. Things take time. Some things take more time than others, but there's never enough for all the things you want to do.

That book that won't be out for a year? Write another one so it will be ready while the other one is in the oven. (Shut up - I know that's another pregnancy metaphor. People all around me are spawning, all right? I may also be knitting things for small humans, so SHUT UP.)

The point here is, not only does the actual writing of Project take a lot of time, the sale and publication part takes even more. In addition to that, you're going to have to devote more time to Project than you ever thought you would. This is why it's said that you need to love the story you've written, because you're going to be writing it again, and again, and again, and yet again before it leaves your hands for good. Using the "baby" comparison from above, that thing has a lot of growing up to do before it's ready to go off into the big, scary world all alone. You're going to be spending a LOT of time with Project, so settle in. Get comfy. Put on your loungie pants and get a cup of tea. You and Project will be together for a long time. You'd better love that world you created, because you're going to be spending more time there than you think.

So take the time that you do have and do something with it. Like write. Don't just sit around waiting for something to happen, because if you do that, you'll always be waiting.

This concludes your Gothic Goddess Eviltry for 2014. The ELEW is going on our annual holiday hiatus for the year starting on the 22nd (there will be a post detailing this), but we'll be back next year with more evil!

Meanwhile, KEEP WRITING.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ho ho holidaying

Oh my god, I am so unprepared for the holidays!

I used to look forward to this time of year, because of the time off, And I'm still looking forward to the time off... if I got any time off. I wish grownups got winter vacation. Then I might have some of my shopping done!

But now, I keep hoping I'll have some free time to squeeze in writing, between all the holidays and the family and gift buying and giving.

Ha. Case in point. Started this post yesterday, didn't get very far.

Anyways, I was thinking that perhaps if I focused on writing a holiday story, that might help. I mean, lend a festive air to the writing, as well as the season. But I've never really written a holiday story and am left struggling with where to begin.

Do I go paranormal and introduce Santa as a character? Do I do a reunion story about coming home for the holidays? Do I go all Die Hard and make it an action packed story that just happens to have a holiday at the center of it? (Why is Die Hard every guy's favorite Christmas movie, by the way?)

For me, I think romance and the holidays go together - it's why my favorite  Christmas movie is Love Actually. It shows a variety of different kinds of love - true love, broken hearts, unrequited love, friendship love, new love. And, at least for me, it warms the heart.

Maybe that's what I need to get me in the mood... a holiday romance marathon. Of course, that'll use up what little free time I have, but maybe feeling festive is more important than getting the writing done right now...

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Are We There Yet?

Recently I went through a spell where writing was about as much fun as going to the dentist. Now, maybe you are a twisted type who actually enjoys going to the dentist. The sound of the drill, the injection of novocaine and the resulting dead lip, that smell...

As for me, when the topic of dentistry comes up, I shudder. The thought of a filling makes me cry. Even a simple cleaning sets me off. 

So basically, what I'm telling you here is that the writing was not going well. I found myself avoiding it in all sorts of creative ways. Like cleaning, for example. I'm just marginally more fond of vacuuming than I am of dentistry, although I engage in it a little more often. When I did finally maneuver my butt into the chair I would find myself falling asleep. No amount of coffee or snacking or napping changed this. I'd sit down to write and my eyes would drift shut. My fingers would descend on the keyboard, unguided. And then my head would jerk, my eyes would open, I'd type a couple of words and off to sleep I'd go again. This activity being pointless, I'd give it all up and take to the couch where I could sleep in peace. And then go to bed, only to wake up and try again.

This block was making me a little crazy. There are all sorts of reasons to be excited about the project. I'm working on The Nothing, the last book of the Between trilogy. It's going to be an indie book this time. I love it, I love the editors who are going to help me make it beautiful, I love the cover. But I was hopelessly and horribly blocked. My self imposed deadline vanished into the past and I set another one, only to see it do the same thing.

All I wanted was to be done with the damned book so I could move on. 

And that, right there, was the problem. I was so focused on the destination that I couldn't appreciate the journey.

I have two ways of approaching a car trip. One is all about the experience. I pack up snacks, load up the tunes, and set off on an adventure. I'm happy to just chill, watch the scenery go by, and enjoy the trip. I'll get there when I get there. The miles zip by happily and this is a pleasant experience.

The other version is not so fun. On these occasions, I just want to get where I'm going. And it takes forever to get there. Each mile is interminable. The car seat is uncomfortable. I'm bored. I have trouble staying awake. There are so many other things I want to be doing and I  Just. Can't. Wait. To get there.

So I had to remind myself of what I've learned before. Each book is a journey. Each book brings with it the temptation to fall into an Are We There Yet? frame of mind, like a bored toddler on a road trip. Writing is meaningful and rewarding when I'm in it for the story, and not for the end game. 

Things are better now. I'm back to immersing myself in the words and characters and it feels good. 

The end of this journey is still around a corner and up a hill and I have a sneaking suspicion there might be some road construction along the way. But that's all right. I'll get there when I get there and that's okay with me. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book-Giving at the Holidays


I love giving books as gifts. Like LOVE giving books as gifts. It makes me happy on more levels than I can iterate:

  • Introducing someone to a new world to get lost in
  • Helping another author make a living
  • Spreading the love of books that will hopefully be shared and talked about
  • So on and so forth...

But there are some problems with giving books at the holidays too.

  • For every Smutketeers 12 Days of Christmas that gives away tons of books and gift cards and stuff, there are ten authors who are pushing their books on readers and buyers. 
  • For every author willing to answer questions to help you pick the best book for a reader, others ignore  questions completely. 
  • And so on and so forth. 

If you are an author, this is really the wrong time of year to be a douchebag author. It's a busy time for everyone, but you ignore your readers and potential readers at your peril.

For example, my daughter is nine. She is a very advanced reader. Middle grade books, for the most part, are too easy for her. She's reading young adult and soaking it up like a sponge. But she's nine. While I don't see her stepping out and trying to become the next evil wizard bent on world domination, she can and will be inappropriate in certain things she choose to talk about. (In other words, I'd prefer books for her where sex and swearing are at a minimum, thank you very much.) Yesterday, I asked about a series she's interested in and (on the off chance it was caught) @mentioned the author. The author did see the tweet. Retweeted it in fact, but didn't answer the question about whether or not the series contained sex. She left it up to her readership to do so. Thankfully they did, and I know it's not an appropriate series for my daughter right now.

But too often questions online are lost to the aether. Thousands of people see them and no one bothers answering (to put it in perspective, this author has over 30,000 followers...3 answered the question, one with a "not sure on the last book"). I get it, and it's fine, but normally when people retweet questions, I assume they don't know the answer and are trying to help. In the case of a reader asking you about your're the best source of information.

Will I potentially buy the series for my kid in a few years when she's older? If she still wants it. But that author turned me off her work personally. I would like to thank the readers who stepped up to answer my question, though.

If you are an author, you need to remember that readers and potential readers are necessary for you to make money. (We shall ignore pirates and jerky readers, obviously.) No readers, no money. It's ridiculously simple math that my math-hating 9 year old could figure out. Be kind to your readers. Be as generous to them as you can. Without them, you don't have a career.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

STFU About Anyone "Taking a Chance" On You

It's the newly signed/published author refrain. They say it in interviews, guest posts, book dedications and acknowledgments.

"Thank you [agent/editor/publisher] for taking a chance on me/the book."

It's a sweet sentiment, born of gratitude. It's recognizing that there are thousands and thousands of people who are striving for the same goal that you've now achieved, people you feel no different from. Whether your little book is plucked out of slush or whatever happened, you feel special--the wallflower someone recognized was pretty and invited to dance.

It's a romantic view of publishing. And a fucking stupid one, so stop it.

Gratitude is a good thing (never, ever lose sight of it). Yes, be thankful for the excellent people you work with. Be thankful for their guidance and advice, the experience they share with you.

But any chance taken on your work is a calculated financial decision.

Publishers/agents/etc aren't doing you a "favour" when they sign your book or you as an author: they are making a business decision regarding something they think they can make money on. They are engaging in a partnership with another business--YOU. They are not the handsome prince saving you from a life of cleaning your evil stepmother's house in rags and singing to mice.

They took on your book, invested money in it, because they thought they could sell it to lots of people and make both of you money.

Yes, they love your book. Yes, they take on very few books. Yes, you've accomplished something great--you wrote well and you wrote something people might want to read. Yay you!

But this starry-eyed view of publishing/publishers/etc and advancement of the publishers-are-charity narrative doesn't help you. Instead, it makes it that much easier to be screwed over when you start viewing the weight of power as entirely on their side and none on yours.

You're a business. You're supplying something to a publisher--books--that they then supply to readers. Without your content, they can't make money. Sure, by "your", I mean writers in general--not YOU-you. There are always more books, more authors, etc. But you have far, far more value and power than you give yourself credit for.

I worked in acquisitions. And yes, out of 1200 submissions I'd only take a couple. A couple that I thought would sell. Books I loved that I thought other people would love too--enough people to justify the money spent publishing them. I wasn't doing writers any favours by accepting their work for publication. Doing favours would be a fast track to losing my job, which relied on picking profitable projects that I had to justify to my boss spending any money on. There's a gamble there, yes, as not every book will be profitable, even if it seems like a sure thing (and the more sure-things I did go with, the more room I had to gamble with other tougher sells). But I was making fairly educated guesses based on market trends, existing book sales, and my experience as an editor--I wasn't randomly plucking books out of a hat.

I was grateful to the writers who were submitting their work to me. Every time I got a fantastic, well-done book in slush, I thanked the publishing gods above and crossed my fingers they'd accept the contract and I'd have the opportunity to work with them. Hell, now I work almost exclusively with self-published authors now as a freelancer and I am STILL so damn grateful to get a well-done book to edit or have the opportunity to create a cover for a great novel.

You know who else took a chance on your book? You did.

You took a chance by writing it. You took a chance by submitting it for consideration and doing all the work that entailed. There are plenty more guaranteed profitable things you could be doing with your time. You have tons of ideas and characters speaking to you, you have to decide what to invest your time and energy in, and you took a chance on the one that you ended up writing. Do not give anyone more credit than you've given yourself when it comes to these "chances" that have been taken.

You have power as a writer. You have options. You don't have to accept a contract. You can request changes to the contract terms. Depending on the size of the publisher, you can speak up about cover art. You can question what your publisher is doing to market a book. You can remind them you are partners in this publishing endeavor who both want the book to succeed. Now, I suggest doing so with patience and friendliness, of course, remembering that people in publishing are hella-busy and spread thin. They're also people, not a giant faceless thing, but actual people who are worth being decent to.

But any publisher, particularly among small ones, who act like you should be grateful for the sheer fact that they offered to publish your book--who neglect to answer your business questions, or who respond to them with a "my way or the highway" attitude instead with reasoned explanations--is one to be cautious of. Yes, they provide a valuable service in publishing your book and getting it into the hands of readers...

So do you, however. You provide the book. You wrote something they thought they could sell.

And keeping that in the forefront of your mind--that you are a business, you have power, and publishing is about partnerships--is a less romantic view of things but ultimately a healthier one that will serve you better as your career develops.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Baby Evil Writers 101: When You Need and Editor

Baby Evil Writers 101: When You Need an Editor

Julie Butcher

            I waited ages to actually hire an editor to look at my writing, and probably wasted at least two years. Don’t do what I did. Really, it’s not an option in today’s market. The problem is, when do you send up the Bat Signal?  When is the exact right time to hire someone with experience to read your evil work?

1.      When you don’t know what to do to make it better.
2.      When your beta readers tell you eleventy-five different things and none of them agree.
3.      When you’re routinely rejected by agents and you don’t know why.
4.      When you start ripping out hands full of hair.
5.      When enough chocolate isn’t a thing anymore. (Okay, that one is iffy—because chocolate.)
6.      When your characters act like teenager s and are all YOU CAN’T MAKE ME DO THE THING.

I’m not saying you won’t absolutely hate what they tell you. You will fight it because the fixing will be a ton of work, and writers really don’t like work. Creating is fun, and working is called work because if you do it right, then you get money. Ergo, writing is work because here at the evil league, we believe this to be a fact. Also we, like Captain Mal, want paid for a job.

So when it comes time for you to find an editor, do your research. Ask your writing friends. Any reputable editor will not hesitate to give you clients as referrals. Check their background. Read their resume. Ask things. Make sure they have more experience writing than you do. Then suck it up, pay the money, fix the book, and jump light years in your writing.

Unless you find out what is wrong, you cannot fix it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Happy Birthday Gothic Goddess!

This long running the ELEW, Dina James and I have an ongoing complaint that when birthdays roll around, we struggle with what to say because everyone here is SO FREAKING AWESOME it starts to get repetitive. There are only so many ways you can tell people how great someone is. So this, again, might be repetitive, however it bears repeating and is entirely true.

The ELEW would not exist without Dina James. Really, it would exist without everyone--all the members, past and current, who keep blogging; the readers who stop by to see what we have to say; the writers who agree to anniversary interviews with us.

But the bulk of this past year was difficult for me as I became very ill with no diagnosis for months. You'll notice my posts all but disappeared--in fact, I disappeared for days/weeks online as well. The ELEW was the furthest thing from my mind and, had it just been me trying to keep things up? I would've backed out of the group or let it close entirely.

Dina has kept everything afloat. Dina has stayed on top of the schedule, motivated others, taken care of group emails and coordinated things. Dina has fought to keep the ELEW running, an entirely volunteer organization, devoting countless hours to see it thrive and improve. Dina took the reins when needed during the last fundraiser, as well as the first one. We're getting ready to roll out some exciting things in the new year (stay tuned!), and it's all thanks to her ideas, her devotion, and her evil ways.

I am fortunate enough to call Dina a friend. The rest of you are blessed to call her the Gothic Goddess, She Who Inspires and Terrifies Effortlessly. Please offer the warmest, evillest of birthday wishes to Dina James.

Happy Birthday, Dina.

I give you Tom Hiddleston reading Shakespeare.

Monday, December 1, 2014

I Wrote Stuff! Now What?

Welp, here it is, the first day of December. Go on, you can freak out for a minute…it's okay.

Finished? Good. Moving on, then.

What today means (besides only having 30 days left in the whole of 2014) is that NaNoWriMo is over, and if you were participating, you should have a grand total of 50k+ shiny new words on a project. Now, what to do with those shiny new words?

Well, add more to them, first of all. 50k words really doth not a novel make, so you'll need to fix that. And speaking of fixing, after you get that count up to somewhere in the 80k range (for an adult novel – YA can be a bit less), now you LET IT SIT for a good long while. Six weeks, say. That's what Stephen King does when he finishes something – he puts it in a drawer for a month and a half.

I know, I know. I hear you now. It's your baby. You can't leave it. It's cruel to leave a newborn out to fend for itself! It can't-

Let me tell you something about that newborn manuscript. It's not an infant. It's a fucking egg. It needs time to develop before it hatches, so make like a birdie (or a platypus, if you want to be an egg-laying mammal) and sit on it for awhile. Magic things are happening while it's under your feathery ass. When it's time for it to hatch, that is when you bring it food and watch it grow and tend to it until it's ready to leave the nest.

Note that: tend to it until it's ready to leave the nest.

Translation: revise the ever-loving hell out of it before inflicting it on others.

Now, some eggs are bad. Some eggs don't hatch. And we all know the old saying about how "you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." What does all this mean?

Well, just what it says. Some things you write aren't good and should be thrown at asshats who cruise through your neighborhood at 3AM with their bass up so loud it deregulates your heart rhythm. Some things you write just aren't quite there yet and need more help to grow, so put them in the incubator (called "trunking" – all writers have a trunk novel or ten) and maybe come back in a year and see if they're ready to hatch. And the other thing? Yeah. Sometimes in order to write something good, you have to write a bunch of crap that's not. In fact, that's how it usually works.

Writing is a ladder, and we all start at the bottom. No one – no, not even Big Name Writer of Brilliance – started out at the top. Some might have climbed a little faster than others, and some may be stuck at a particular spot, but the trick is to keep climbing. Even when it hurts. Even when you're so tired and it feels like you're not making progress. Even when you've slipped down a few rungs. Hell, a lot of writers slip all the way back to the bottom and have to start over, and the ones that do are the ones that make it. Why?

Because they don't give up. Perseverance is the key to success, but there's a line between perseverance and pesterage. There's determination and there's desperation.

Now, I'm not saying "know when to quit." I'm not the fucking Gambler over here (aaaaaand I just showed my age….). I never advocate quitting. What I do advocate is reevaluation. If something repeatedly isn't working, it might be time to ask why that is instead of trying to force it to. It doesn't do any good to smack a TV that isn't plugged in and expect it to work. What's that thing about the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? I've talked about that here before – if all your rejections say the same thing, it might be time to look to what they're addressing. If you're getting nothing but rejections, it might be time to take a look at your query letter.

And if you make changes and nothing happens, well…it might be time to set that one aside and move on to something else. Because you're a writer, and there is always another project. Yes, even if you feel like there isn't.

So, once you've finished that NaNo novel, put it away and look at it again next year. February will be here before you know it.

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