September 29, 2014

Insecure Writers' Support Group - overcoming the obstacles

(This post includes an interview and is longer than the recommended 300 words for IWSG, but it also includes 2 giveaways for a great read.)

I started writing in 2005. Since that time, I’ve met a lot of writers. I’ve heard a lot of stories about the difficulties and insecurities they’ve had to overcome to get their books published. And whether they went the traditional route or the self-publishing route, they’ve all had to fight to get their books out into the world to be read. One of these writers is Kristal Shaff. 

I’ve known Kristal since 2005 or 2006. We met because we’d both posted comments on another writer’s blog. We started chatting via AOL chat and discovered we had some common ground. She was a mom in Iowa with three young kids. I was a mom in Arizona with three young kids. We were both working on a first novel. We were both writing fantasy. At the time, I just wanted one copy of my book to hold in my hands to prove I’d written a novel. Kristal wanted her story published. 

Very soon after meeting, we agreed to help each other with our stories. Over the years, we’ve shared each other’s frustrations and tears and triumphs—not just over writing, but life. We’ve pulled each other out of our writer slumps and given each other a kick in the seat of the pants when necessary. We’ve critiqued and proofread each other’s stories, and helped each other become better writers.

After all this time of watching her overcome one obstacle after another to publish her book (a fantasy story I’ve read in all of its forms more times than I can count, and enjoyed every single time), I now have the privilege of helping her promote it. 

MG: Kristal, thank you so much for stopping by beautiful chaos as part of your blog tour.
KS: Sure. Thanks for having me here.

MG: Why did you want to write The Emissary?
KS: I’ve always been an avid reader. It wasn’t until I read the YA fantasy novel, ERAGON, that I realized I wanted to give it a go myself. Christopher Paolini, the author, inspired me to try because he was only a teen when he wrote his book. It showed me that it doesn’t matter what age you are, young or old. If you want to write a book, why not try.

MG: How long has this process taken, from the time you decided to write the novel to the release date?
KS: Oh my. Well, it’s been a really long time. I wrote the first, terrible words back in 2005, then didn’t have anything workable until 2006. My first completed draft was almost 200,000 words of complete crap. It took some time to edit it down into something workable. Finally, after about 8 drafts, I was able to find an agent. That was in 2008. After a year of trying to sell the book with my agent, it failed. I’ve pulled it out and rewritten it several times after that. So it’s been a very long process, but I’ve never given up on it.

MG: What were some of the things you did to try to get the book “out there” to be read?
KS: I went the agent route first, and that failed. I also submitted it to several publishers on my own. Some of those submissions were almost successful, such as a rewrite from Little Brown Publishing and a nice personalized note from Baen. I also entered it into some open door submission and was very close to publishing with Strange Chemistry. I also got some beta readers along the way, which was really good for me. I found a group of fellows on a slinging forum (where people like to throw rocks with slings and talk about it). I’d approached them for research on using slings for my book, and I found them to be very friendly and helpful. Several of the fellows on there were great assets for beta readers and gave me a lot of encouragement to my battered self-esteem.

MG: What were some of your fears and insecurities along the way?
KS: Rejection is the biggest fear. Even now that it is out in the word, there is a fear that someone won’t like it. And after each rejection, you doubt that you can actually do it again. Writing is such a personal thing; you open your mind up to others. So I believe it’s completely natural to have some fears. Being a writer puts you in a very vulnerable state.

MG: How did you overcome them?
KS: My fears? You don’t totally overcome them. You learn to deal with your fears, cover them up, harden the outside layer to protect you. I think writers should worry more if you feel confident all the time. Writers who think they are wonderful are most likely to be the worst at their craft, because they can’t see beyond their glory. You need discernment to improve.  I do think that all the rejections have helped me to improve, and also prepared me for bad reviews. Even the most famous writers get bad reviews. So going through the pain of the process, I believe, prepares you for the destination of publication. I’m more equipped now because it was a long, hard journey.

MG: If you had it to do over again, would you?
KS: I think so. I’ve learned a lot and gained a lot of friends. There is something to be said for that alone. I’m still very new to this “being published” thing, that I’m honestly having a hard time wrapping my brain around it. I feel the same as I did before, but there is a sense of closure to it finally.

MG: What advice would you give other insecure writers?
KS: It’s okay to feel insecure. It’s normal. Like a hero in your stories, the key is to push through and be brave even in the midst of self-doubt. The best heroes are the ones who succeed after struggling through trials and insecurity. Be a hero, like the ones in your stories, and keep going. With a little stubborn perseverance, and the willingness to see your faults and rejections as opportunities to grow and improve, you can succeed.

For more information about The Emissary, Kristal, or the blog tour, click here, or on The Emissary’s cover at the top of my sidebar. 

The blog tour host, MaryAnn at Chapter by Chapter will be giving away 5 digital copies of Kristal’s book at the end of the tour, October 25. If you want to enter, here’s a link to the rafflecopter website.

Completely separate from Chapter by Chapter, and Month9Books (Kristal’s publisher), I will be giving away 3 copies of The Emissary (out of my own pocket because I love this story so much) in a random drawing of people who comment on this post. I will choose winners October 4. They’ll get to choose from e-book or paperback.  


Kristal Shaff said...

Thanks for always being there, Michelle, including now. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations, Kristal! A long journey, but it's the end result that matters. And no, we never overcome the insecurities completely.

Kristal Shaff said...

Thanks Alex. :)

Tammy Theriault said...

GREAT to meet you Kristal and what a long journey in writing you have had!

Tammy Theriault said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dolorah said...

Wow, that is a long time to be writing buddies. Nice to get to know you Kristal. Sounds like you went through a lot to get your book published. I'm an over-writer also, and Eragon series is one of my favorites (though I haven't read the final one yet).

Hi Michelle; this is Donna Hole under my new blog name. Not sure I've stopped by before today.

Have a good weekend ladies, and good luck with the tour Kristal.

Juneta key said...

Very inspiring story. What a beautiful cover too. That would make me stop and check out the book by itself, as a reader. Congratulations Kristal.

Thanks for sharing Kristal's journey
Juneta at Writer's Gambit

Kristal Shaff said...

Thanks everyone. Appreciate the kind words. :)