Minerva Zimmerman: Five Things I Learned Writing Take On Me
Turning someone you don’t know into a vampire probably violates the Hippocratic oath. But Alex wasn’t really thinking about that when he found a girl bleeding out in his shower.
Being turned into a vampire isn’t as cool as it sounds. Especially when all Hannah wanted to be was dead. She thought she had finally escaped her brother. Until she woke up. Alive? Undead? Whatever. And now Hannah is stuck with the uncoolest vampire in existence.
As Alex and Hannah feel each other out — breaking some bones along the way — Alex’s oldest friend comes looking for help, and Hannah’s brother comes looking for her. What none of them see are the forces pushing them all on a collision course.
Failure Is Always An Option
I spent over seven years working on an epic fantasy series only to realize in a moment of clarity I wasn’t a good enough writer to write it yet. Moments of personal clarity suck. It’s pretty rare to have one that makes you realize that you’re doing everything right. No, you have moments of clarity when you’re able to give yourself enough distance from the bricks you’re bloodying your knuckles on to realize it’s part of a wall with a gate in it — a gate that isn’t even locked. I could see where I was, and I could see that if I kept writing I would steadily get to the place where I needed to be in about five years. What made the most sense was to set aside seven years of work and work on projects I knew I could finish as the writer I already was.
Love What You Do
At the same time I was deciding to set aside what I’d been working on, a writer friend of mine started working on a really funny Urban Fantasy story and I found myself extremely envious of their getting to work on humor. Envy is a tool. Envy tells you what you really want, not what you think you want. When I found myself envious of my friend’s story, it had less to do with them and everything to do with what I needed to be doing to love my own writing. For whatever reason I immediately thought of vampire characters I’d created back in the ’90s and wrote a fluff piece with them conversing them in present day, referencing the events of 1986 when they’d originally met. Alex is going on about how he still didn’t remember how Hannah ended up bleeding to death in his shower when she admits he doesn’t remember because she drugged him… and suddenly I wanted to know a whole lot more. I had these great characters with all of these tantalizing clues about the people they used to be, and instinctively knew all the things that had to change to get them to the present. Intrigued, I basically wrote one of the last scenes in what became the third book of The Shattered Ones. I knew the end. I knew how the characters changed. I knew where the events started. So, I just… started writing. Pretty soon I had a story I figured I could never do anything with, but I loved writing again
Finish What You Start
I got serious about writing. I canceled my World of Warcraft account (between all of my characters I was putting in full-time-job hours on the game), and dedicated that time toward writing. I started submitting stories. I published a few short stories and a couple of novellas. I stopped taking myself so goddamn seriously and just focused on finishing things. I found the best way for me to finish things was to have a deadline. (Seriously? Who would have thought? Oh… everyone who actually gets paid, that’s who. If I had a time machine I would totally squander it going back in time to shake my past self. Also, getting extra sleep. I would totally use it to get extra sleep. Why doesn’t anyone ever do that?)
Make Your Own Luck
It bothered me that I had this not-quite finished vampire story I couldn’t do anything with. What I needed was a deadline and editorial assistance in getting it finished. I decided I would pay to get it professionally edited and self-publish it as three serialized short novels. Splitting the story into three shorter bits makes a lot of sense for my particular writing style. Also, I’m not a well-known author. Pretty much… no one has ever heard of me. It’s in my best interest to lower the time and money commitment someone has to put out to discover me and then to keep feeding new installments at a rapid rate to keep their interest as well as increase my discoverability.
I contacted Brian White, who is the publisher of Fireside Magazine, to see if it was the kind of thing he’d be interested in doing as a freelance editing project. Tragically comedic vampires aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and I wasn’t really interested in working with someone who hated my writing. (There aren’t a lot of writing rules I think work universally, but I’d wager “Don’t partner with someone who hates your work” holds true for most people.)
Duck and Roll
Not only did he agree to look at it, but he asked for the option to choose to offer on it for Fireside after reading it. This was a huge shock because I had no idea that Fireside was even thinking about publishing books, much less already had one in the pipeline. Wait… I accidentally sold a vampire series? That isn’t a very helpful story for anyone hoping to use my experiences as a guide for their own publishing journey. On the other hand, every single publishing story I ever heard wasn’t helpful to me either other than to illustrate that isn’t the part of the business you can control. I made the decision to set aside my project. I got serious about writing. I wrote the series. I submitted stories. I decided I needed an editor. Publishing is freaking WEIRD at every level and it is impossible to plan for. So, don’t plan for it. Write what you want to write that makes you happy. If you keep learning and watching you will know where a story belongs when that opportunity comes along.
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Minerva Zimmerman is a statistically chaotic neutral writer of tragically funny fiction. She lives in rural Oregon and works as a museum professional. She occasionally blogs at minervazimmerman.com and spends too much time on Twitter.
Minerva Zimmerman: Twitter