For as long as I can remember, my social media always has had some kind of tag line that said: one day I will be a published author. It’s like Sven said in Happy Feet two, “If you want it, you must will it. If you will it, it will be yours.”
I officially became a published author on the 7th of June, 2017. My first novel Shadow Haven was published by Ylva.
My writer’s journey didn’t start with Shadow Haven, though. I remember a couple of years ago wanting to try my hand at writing fanfiction, but never thinking I was good enough. I read every Rachel/Quinn story that was out there, until I had read them all.
I got more into Once Upon a Time and while I could see the chemistry on my screen, apparently the writers could not. So, I did what every self-respecting person would do, I wrote my own story.
Whispers in the night was my first ever fanfic. My first ever review was, “More please!” and while I’ve come to loathe those words… back then it encouraged me to write more. Halfway through writing WitN, I started a new story.
Shadow Haven quite quickly took off and (according to others) is a must read fanfic. Long story short, it’s the story that got Ylva interested in pursuing me and so they did.
So, now that I am an expert (really, I’m not, but a girl can pretend) I wanted to give other fanfiction writers some tips in their journey of getting published.
1. It’s not just changing names
Really. It’s not. It’s one of the first things you’ll do, but once you do, your characters will have officially changed. Whether you wrote SwanQueen, Rizzles, Clexa or Shoot, those characters should be dead to you the moment you change their names. Anything to do with the fandom you wrote for, needs to be gone or you might get sued and no one wants that.
Changing your story from a fanfic to an original one involves shaping your new characters.
You need to get to know your new characters before you start writing. I’d suggest using a character chart and filling it out. It will help you tremendously in your editing process. I’d also suggest creating some sort of time line for your story. Within fanfiction no one really cares about what is ‘realistic,’ but within the lesfic community people are more harsh about mistakes or unrealistic occurrences in a realistic story. Which leads me to my next point.
2. Get a brutally honest beta
Perhaps you already work with a beta whom you trust. If so, great! If not, get one. Having a beta has multiple purposes:
- Constructive criticism;
- Bounce ideas around;
- Have a really good bitching session about how hard it all is.
While editing Shadow Haven I didn’t have a beta. I had an editor who basically performed the same job and I don’t know where I’d be without her. She was honest, she was kind and she was utterly helpful whenever I felt completely lost.
That’s what a beta should do for you. A beta needs to tell you when something doesn’t work, when something is plain wrong and they need to do it without being afraid of hurting your feelings. Perhaps that’s just the social anxiety part of me, but I honestly believe that every friend a writer has, will sugarcoat their feedback due to that friendship.
3. Editing is like having your period; you hate everything
I’m sure there are people who absolutely love editing, but if you’re anything like me, editing will make you loath your own story. During my first three rounds everything was fine. I was excited, I was intrigued by what made my characters tick and I loved learning how editing truly worked.
By round 982374 I was tired of it. You can only read your own story so many times before you just want to chuck your computer out the window.
4. Editing is a long and gruesome process
I could have added this to number three but I felt like it deserved its own little title. Editing is truly a long and gruesome process.
Both my publisher and my editor warned me about how I might feel when I first would get my manuscript back and they were right. My document was riddled with red lines and it was hard to see the positives along with the constructive criticism.
I have learned throughout those months that feedback is never negative. It’s constructive criticism and if you can’t see it like that; contact your editor. Talk about your worries. They’ll help. Trust me.
While you’re editing you need to set time aside to do something, anything else. Keep your editing to a maximum of four to five hours every day. After that you won’t see the mistakes anymore and you’ll only add more. When you’re frustrated with the whole process I highly recommend entering a shooting game and blasting all the devils back to hell.
Your feedback changes because your audience changes. It’s something I wish someone had told me because I was not quite prepared.
Shadow Haven the fic got exactly zero negative reviews. Something I have been quite proud of especially with the amount of reviews it has.
The book though? Different story. Suddenly I got slapped in the face with reviews that weren’t quite negative but they sure as hell weren’t positive either.
The lesfic community has standards and they aren’t afraid to tell you that. My book has often been deemed as too long and too far stretched. Which is fair enough, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it definitely means you’re in for some comments that are going to hit hard.
Another thing that is difficult, or it was for me, is that on Goodreads you’re not supposed to reply to your reviews. There have been so many that I have been wanting to reply to, to explain that yes it is normal for a Domme to call their submissive a good girl in the BDSM community.
6. Write, write, write
If you want to publish more than one book, have a system in place. It’s a system that I was taught by a friend and while I definitely didn’t keep to it, I really should have.
The system is as follows: while your editor works on your chapters, write your next book. Technically speaking if you write 2000 words a day, you could have a new novel a month later. If you keep this system going there will always be something in the works novel wise.
If you aren’t writing your next novel, write anyway. Don’t stop writing. Even if it’s three words a day, those three words will be what keeps you going in the end. Perhaps not everyone struggles with doing that, but I surely did and still do.
And if there is ever a day where you truly cannot write…read.
Promoting your book starts months before your book is even finished.
When you write fic you’re probably used to promoting it on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. That won’t be enough for your book, although those are most definitely important to promote on. But, if you want your book to gain an audience you need to be talking about it months in advance.
Join writer’s and reader’s groups. Find blogs where you can do interviews or write guest posts. Set up a mailing list and start engaging with your audience. Set up an online release party and do a Q&A on Facebook if you can. All these things will help you promoting your book and they are extremely important.
8. Haters gonna hate
“You just wrote a fic to get it published.”
“Ugh, you just changed the names and called it a day.”
“Wow, you really used the fandom, didn’t you?”
The above is a selection of comments I’ve seen being thrown at other authors. Most authors chose to take down the original fic and while that’s a whole different discussion, it always ends up in drama and entitlement.
People are going to accuse you of using the fandom in order to get published. People are going to tell you that you have betrayed the fandom and people are going to send you the most ridiculous hate for it.
Let them. Rise above it. For every hateful comment there will be hundreds in support. Don’t get lost in the negativity, celebrate the positive.
Bullet journaling is such a delicious treat. I highly recommend looking up bullet journaling on Pinterest if you aren’t familiar with it.
I use my bullet journal for many different things. I actually have two. One to process the death of my brother and one to help me with writing. I fill it with prompts, I write down compliments I have gotten and I keep track of the amount of words I have written. I have recently started a huge bujo project of writing down all the personality types in hopes that I can create characters that can go with them.
You could do all these things on the computer, of course, but there’s something very satisfying to writing it down on paper.
10. Be proud
Seriously. Be proud of yourself. What you are doing is no easy job.
You are creating worlds for other people to get lost in.
You are writing characters that people can identify with.
You are writing a freaking book.
I am proud of you.