Back when I first started writing, I penned an amazing dark-fantasy called Dreams of Lost Souls. It was the first of four in my Empire of Deceit series. Coming in at 114,000 words, it took me just over two years to write. Once finished, I immediately started on its sequel, Divine Liberation, while simultaneously trying to pitch the first book.
I attended a writer’s conference in Austin Texas, and learned how to query and pitch my masterpiece. While there, I heard several authors and editors all lovingly discuss their books in a drawer. For those who don’t know the term, a Book in a Drawer is an unsellable manuscript that never sees print and spends eternity living in a drawer (or in today’s case, on a hard drive). Evidently, most authors have a cherished work that they keep hidden away (some authors have several). They’re considered “practice novels.”
“Fools,” I thought. “I’m not going to have an entire book that never gets published. I’m going to sell this baby, and then I’m going to sell its sequels, spin-offs, movie rights, and have to buy a new house just to hold all the awards they’re going to earn.”<insert evil laugh>
No one bought it. No one even asked for a full manuscript. I wish I could tell you how many rejections I got, but I can’t. I just stopped counting.
I found it to be a lot easier if I just stamped them myself.
But that didn’t stop me. I kept writing. I kept editing. I kept writing short stories that all took place in the same fantasy world I had written. (The concept was to create a living world that has many stories and adventures going on, not just the one epic tale)
After several more years, I found myself at the FenCon 2011 Writer’s Workshop. It was chaired by Editor Lou Anders, who had just won a Hugo. It was going to be 3 days of peer reviews and one-on-one with one of the industry’s rock-stars. I knew that once he read the first 10 pages, he’d be sold.
He wasn’t. In fact, he tore it to Hell. I was over 200,000 words into my series, and spent three days having Lou (who is a terribly awesome guy, by the way) patiently, but brutally explain that it was sheer crap.
Some of the other authors were understandably upset having their works shredded. Strangely enough, I wasn’t upset at all. I was relieved. It felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I not only knew my book was bad, I knew why it was bad. I knew why theirs were bad. And most importantly, I knew what an editor was looking for.
The final morning of the convention, I saw Lou quietly having breakfast. I stopped by to thank him for all his help and tell him that he’d given me the courage to put my manuscript away and finally start on a story idea that I’d been bouncing around for the past few years. Not wanting to be a bother, I tried to make it a real quick conversation. Lou (I can’t stress enough what a nice guy he is) asked me to sit and we then just B.S.’d for half an hour.
When I told my wife that I’d finally given up on ever selling Empire of Deceit, she was horrified. She thought I’d be crushed. I simply told her that it was my practice novel, and it had taught me how to write.
The next week, I started Dämoren.
I met Lou again at an Agent/Editor Conference in 2013 while hocking a freshly-finished Dämoren. I thanked him again for giving me the courage to start this new project. We talked shop for a bit, then snuck off, grabbed a coffee, and discussed important matters like Batman and Sci-Fi TV shows.
Oh, and as far as those short-stories that took place in the same fantasy world as my never-to-be-released novel: You can check out The Mist of Lichthafen, Relàmpago, or my soon to be released Black Raven Series.
So for any aspiring novelists reading this: Good luck. I hope you sell your first novel and fill a money bin with all the fortune you deserve. I really mean that. I’ll also hate you with jealousy, but it will be a loving hate. However, if you don’t sell that first novel, don’t worry, you’re in good company.
I hope this is you.