Sunday, October 31, 2010

Learning to Fail, Preparing to Succeed

First off, I have a new second place winner! However, since my other three winners replied promptly, technically they all have moved up and I have a new fifth place winner.:D

And new fifth place is Meghan Kirkland!

Same as last time, please reply to aprilynne pike at gee mail dot com. I need to hear from you by Saturday please!!

Other winners, I will get your prize packs mailed out this week!

Okay, the actual writing related post I promised you.:D I was a guest speaker at an event and my children's school earlier this week along with several other women who had successful careers in areas many people strive for. (A doctor, a lawyer, an artist.) The school has an elite gifted program that is rather renowned throughout the state and I am always hearing about the program's success, so I was a little surprised when the coordinator asked me to speak on the challenges that gifted young women face in going out and pursuing careers (all of the speakers were former gifted students, not necessarily at that school, though two were) and how to overcome them.

It was fascinating hearing from all of them and the work required to reach where they are now. I spoke first and the main theme that I spoke on was learning to fail. (And although my talk was specifically aimed at gifted students, I think it really applies to my readers here too, because both readers and writers tend to be on the gifted end, even if they are not specifically diagnosed as such.) As students, most gifted (or just plain bookish :D) kids find that school comes easy. They get high grades without trying, concepts root in their brains easily, etc. One of the main challenges that gifted students face is that when life and school do become challenging, they don't know how to handle that and have a tendency to shy away from these challenging fields. And in any of the four areas, all of the women could attest that at some point their goals became very, very difficult to attain.

For writers, it's rejection. One person asked me what the hardest part of being an author was, and though the answer to this changes frequently, that night I said, "Rejection." And that's because when you are an author, even when you're not getting agent and publisher rejections anymore (or at least not as many :D), there is always someone waiting to tell you what's wrong with your book. In the beginning it's your editor via ed letters. And even though ed letters are very constructive and meant to help you improve your book, the fact is that they are a big long letter outlining what's wrong with your book. And it's always hard to swallow. Especially that first read-through.

Then reviews roll in, and they can be harsh too. Even critically acclaimed books of awesomeness get burned by reviewers. Then the book is released and the readers are unleashed upon you. And trust me, they are more than happy to point out all the mistakes in your book.

And guess what happens with the next book? It starts all over! Every book is the same way. The rejection and criticism never stops. Learning how to deal with that is hard and has put a stop to more than one author's career.

Listening to the doctor and Lawyer speak was enough to make me feel like a major slacker.:D The doctor had attended 13 years of school (including her residency) without a single break. And because the lawyer had gotten a Masters degree before starting law school, she had gone to nine years of school with no breaks. Makes my 180 rejections over the course of two years seem really piddly.:D I was interested to hear, however, that the artist had a degree in scenic design (she paints and designs sets.) This was interesting to me because she and I both fell into the artist category and both of us had a Bachelor's degree in our field.

I gotta say, I don't think that's a coincidence.

Between my husband and I, we have several friends who are aspiring authors. For some of them, they have built their entire lives around eventually being big bestselling authors. (Please don't do this. Hope, dream big, but don't actually set your life up so it depends on being a self-sustained author.) But strangely, the people who are most determined to be big authors both refuse to go to school for it. At all.

Now, I'm not advocating that everyone who wants to be an author go out and get a writing degree. For the same reason you don't base your life on getting published. There are too many factors that are out of your control. But if you are serious about getting published, there are aspects about the process and the industry that you need to learn. Perhaps the best way to learn that is not in a class at all, but online with the myriad resources available to anyone who knows how to Google. Perhaps a night class at your local community college can help you get a better grasp on grammar/plotting/pacing/structure/ whatever it is that you need help with. There are so many ways to learn about writing--including just sitting down and doing it! But don't fall into that rut where you believe that you don't need to learn, you just need to write the right book/find the right editor/be introduced to the right person.

We can all learn. I learn something at every single writers conference that I attend. And the biggest and best authors out there will tell you that they are still learning new things. It's not a static skill where you reach a certain level and can dust of your hands and say, "Well, I'm done learning now." Every book is different, the industry changes daily, readers demand different things, etc. Learning is essential if you want to succeed. I firmly believe it is a necessary precursor to being able to succeed.

Writer's conferences won't magically make you publishable and having a degree in Creative Writing doesn't mean you know how to write a novel. Not having a college degree doesn't keep you from self-educating yourself nor does having a degree in a wholly unrelated field keep you from having the skills to be a brilliant plotter. There is no A+B=Published equation that will guarantee you success, but if you can't handle rejection and criticism, you are chasing the wrong dream, and if you refuse to let others teach you, you're probably never going to catch the dream at all. Learn to fail, but prepare yourself for success.

And yes, it is much more difficult than it sounds.

An author friend and mentor of mine asked at a writers conference last summer, "Why do so many people want to get published? To be full time writers? Because it's the best job in the world. But that's why it's so hard." It really struck me. It IS the best job in the world. But, like all truly attractive jobs, there is a lot of competition. Don't hold yourself back. Trust me, there are plenty of others who will try to do that for you.:D


Monday, October 25, 2010


So it took me a while to figure out how to get five people their preferred prize packs without emailing back and forth for like a month. So here is what I like to call my Winners' Pyramid Scheme!

The first winner sends me their top choice. The 2nd place winner sends me their top two choices, the third place winner the top three choices, etc. to fifth place. Then, if, by chance, everyone wants exactly the same prize packs in exactly the same order (which would be weird!) then I can still accommodate everyone. And well, if you listed everyone's choices altogether, one line apart, it would look like a pyramid!:D (Yes, I am easily amused.)

So here we go!!!

1st Place Abbi, who listed herself as Anonymous originally and came back to correct it.

2nd Place Tina (Book Couture)

3rd Place Kalina Kay

4th Place Ashley whose birthday was October 17th.

5th Place Kelsey who would like Laurel to be with Tamani.:D (Hey if you're making requests you may as well make requests, right??)

Please email me at aprilynne pike at g mail dot com with your preferences for prize packs listed in order, as well as your actual name and mailing address. Also, please let me know if you would prefer Wings or Spells to go along with your prize pack and what name you would like it personalized to. Once I have this info, I will mail stuff out as soon as possible!

**If I do not hear from you by Saturday, I will announce a new winner to take your spot!!**

Thank you so much to everyone for entering!!!

And now for some really fun news, I will be revealing the cover and jacket copy for ILLUSIONS next week!! I will be doing a fun puzzle-piece hunt with my awesome fansite, Late Bloomers, as well as some of their affiliates. More details will follow, but the fun starts Monday! I cannot WAIT to show you guys this cover, it is SO gorgeous!! (Also, the jacket copy rocks SO FREAKIN' MUCH!!!!!)

And on top of that, there will be a special surprise to go along with the cover reveal at the end of next week that I have also been bursting to show people! So mega excitement next week, and an actual writing-related post this week!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Massive Giveaway!

It's still this week! (Technically.) So I am NOT late posting this giveaway. *whistles innocently*

First off, for people in the Phoenix area, just in case you're not sick of seeing me yet, I will be signing at Changing Hands Bookstore, with the super awesome Lisa McMann and Linda Gerber! I love doing group signing with authors who not only have fab books, but are also super nice people and Lisa and Linda are both! So come on out to see us!

Okay, Giveaway time. I am doing four sets of books and they are all signed.

And heck, since I'm giving away signed books, I may as well throw some of mine in there! I'll have entrance rules below, but basically, I'll pick winners and in order they will get to pick a prize pack. In addition to their prize pack, they can choose either Wings or Spells signed and personalized. Clear as mud?

Okay, here are the books!!

First up, the Flame Finder Pack! (Yes, all of the names will be this corny.)

Dark Flame by Allyson Noel and The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting!

Second, the Demon Cat Pack!

White Cat by Holly Black and The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan!

Oh, and total bonus (and made me not want to give it away!!!) Holy drew a cat in White Cat!!!!!

The next pack is the I Am A Loser pack because, well . . . I am a loser.

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong and an ARC of Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr. Here's the loser part. I got these signed while at the Smart Chicks tour and was trying to be all organized and everything but, well, I failed. So I had Kelley generically sign a book that very clearly has "From the library of Aprilynne Pike" stamped onto it, and forgot to have Melissa leave my name off of any of hers! So here is the exhibit of my loserness.

Oh, yes, I rock SO much. But I wanted to give something away from them! So if you decide to choose the prize pack filled with the evidence of my loser-ness in exchange for the awesomeness of signed books, you're also going to get not just Wings or Spells, but both.

And last but not least, the Waking Trance pack!

This pack will include Wake, by Lisa McMann and Trance, by Linda Gerber, but I don't have a picture of them because I won't get them until tomorrow night. But I will have them!

Okay, so this giveaway is basically to make up for my awful blogging since I started drafting Wings 4, so you've already done the hard part!!! All you have to do now is comment with something startling obvious (like, "Hi, please enter me in your giveaway!") to let me know that you want me to . . . enter you into my giveaway.:D Then Check back on Saturday, October 23rd and if you are a winner, I will need you to email me. (I'll give details then.) See? Super easy!!!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Yeah . . . That . . .

First, go read this post. No seriously--I'll wait.

Man, was this a timely post. Some things that particularly struck me:

-"I'd just pulled a completed novel from my publisher that I wasn't happy with and decided to disappear for awhile."

Holy crap!!! So people, if you didn't follow exactly what this means, she wrote a book. A WHOLE book, did self edits, ran it past her agent, turned it in, and then decided it wasn't good enough and pulled it. People, that is some integrity! Personally, if I've put the work in to get that far and the publisher accepts it, then that's my next book! I have to say, I really look up to that level of commitment to quality. I'm honestly not sure I could do it.

-"I had another book done I sent to my agent while I was writing it, which she turned down---it happens, they can't all be winners."

All aspiring authors out there; the next time you get a form rejection on your full manuscript, come read this sentence. This is Sarah Dessen, people. Multiple #1 NYT bestselling author, beloved by millions, Sarah-frickin'-Dessen. Had a book rejected by her agent. The agent SHE pays. Wow! I was blown away. I think we all know that famous authors get to a point where they *can* write just about anything and someone will publish it. (Can is different than should, but the point is, they *can*.) I suspect that Sarah Dessen is at the point. But not only does SHE not do that (see example number one) but her agent doesn't either. Wow. High standards, people!

-"I also know that to my agent, and my editor, and everyone at my publishing company, my in-process freakouts have become as predictable as Christmas. "Oh, right," I picture them saying in their conference rooms and offices in New York, glancing at the calendar, "it IS about time for Sarah to decide to go back to waitressing again, isn't it?""

Hehe. I just like that part.

I am turning my fourth book in tomorrow. Wednesday morning at the very latest. But pushing for tomorrow. I remember tripping along through my first draft and thinking, Wow! I've been thinking about this book for so long that it is practically writing itself! I should have seen the writing on the wall then. The easier first drafts are for me, the more revisions I tend to do. *cringe*

It's been quite a process on this one because I feel a lot of pressure (not from fans, really, mostly from myself) to really get this one right. People have been asking me from day one if I know the ending of the series and I have said, quite boldly sometimes, that yes, I do, and when readers have finished Book Four they will be able to see all of the little seeds I planted throughout the first three books. Gathering up the fruit from all those seeds and getting them to fit cohesively into a plot structure that makes sense has turned out to be . . . challenging. Plot points and character motivation I have had in place for three years suddenly don't make sense on paper. And I can't just change them, because I have been leading up to them for three books! No, it's much more difficult than that. I have to make them make sense. Believe you me, that square peg trying to get into the round hole has nothing on this book.:D

Essentially, I guess it really is just finessing, because the backbone of the plot is still there, the ending I always planned is still there and it is still (IMO) the *right* ending. That hasn't changed. But how we get there, the details involved, have to be malleable.

And it is so frustrating! If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen the saga of the #plotholeofdeath that my husband found. And, sadly, once someone finds such a plothole, as much as you would like to cover your ears and sing, "lalalalalalalalala!" at the top of your lungs until they go away, you now know it's there and darn it! you have to fix it!

And I totally fell down at my hubby's feet and thanked him for finding the problem that made my novel better.

See? I'm good at making stuff up!

No, in truth I--who never yells at my husband--yelled. Twice. And I don't mean two sentences escaped my mouth at a higher than average volume. I mean he got yelled at in two rather extended yelling sessions on two different days. (I'm sorry!!!!!) It was a two-yell book. I don't think I've ever had more than a one-yell book.

I will tell people any day of the week that I have the best job in the world, and I do. I DO!!! But don't mistake that for the *easiest* job in the world. This is a hard job. It is a job with deadlines and schedules and demands and bosses, just like any other job in the world. But it's so much more personal. If you make a mistake on your spreadsheet, you probably don't fall into a cycle of "IsuckIsuckIsuck and I should never write make another spreadsheet again because I am obviously a talentless hack and who the heck hired me anyway?!?!?!?" I think that a minimum of once a book. Usually three to four times. (See Sarah's quote about going back to waitressing.)

And sometimes it is nice to know that other authors--especially authors like Ally Carter, who I consider veterans (I'm still such a baby!)--feel the same way and go through the same struggles.

Anyway, my apologies that it has been two weeks since I last blogged. I've been at that point where I am eating, breathing, and sleeping Book Four . . . and then eating some more . . . and am trying to continue caring about it enough to finish this last draft and do it well! These words came out of my mouth on Saturday, "I don't care anymore; I hate this book." That's when I know I'm almost done.:D

I will be gathering the books for a rather large giveaway later this week, to celebrate being done (for the moment) so stay tuned!