First novels are rarely a writer’s best. I am learning why from my own experiences. I recently reread Vacation with a Stranger. I liked reading it. I was surprised how well it holds together. Over the last eight months I have been studying techniques in writing fiction. I made lots of mistakes in Vacation, but the book still works for me. My second book has been much more difficult to write. I’m not even half done with it yet. I’ve cut more out than I’ve added. I’ll never finish if I keep that up.
Partly, the problem is that my confidence has suffered badly. I imagined that when I self-published Vacation, the world would embrace it and I would sell thousands of copies. Actually, it has gone unnoticed. I have no idea how to market the book. It could be the greatest work of fiction ever written and nobody would ever find out about it. So much for my success fantasy.
I’m going to try to find an agent for the new book. This is nearly impossible to do. It’s not exactly a novel concept to look for representation. Agents are overwhelmed with authors sending unsolicited manuscripts. It may turn out that my hard work writing fiction is nothing more than a hobby.
As you might have guessed, I’m pretty discouraged. For the time being, I’m going to keep working on the new story. It’s a good one. If I can avoid the pitfalls, maybe it will be published.
Being a self-published author means I get to make horrible mistakes without anyone to help me correct them. The biggest so far is the title of my first book. I called it Fan Mail because it is the story of a woman who gets a fan letter from a man that prompts her to respond and, within hours, decide to invite him to spend a week with her on Maui.
I figured that the important hook was that it was a fan letter. Obviously, I was wrong. I think the real hook is that a famous woman, a TV star, invited a stranger to stay with her. Based on less than a day’s worth of long-distance communication, she took this giant risk. Do you agree that Vacation with a Stranger is more interesting? I hope it is.
It turns out that marketing is more important than writing. I’m just a fledgling writer. I don’t know how to sell books. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up. I’m not. The second book is coming along. I have no idea what to call it. I guess I will settle for writing it first and then figuring out the rest later.
I love holding a real book. Kindle books are certainly less expensive and more convenient, but something is satisfying about paper. I recently received a copy of my first book, Fan Mail. Holding it made me feel like a real author. Until now, the book was more of an abstract concept, something I saw on my computer screen. Holding it in my hands and seeing my words on paper brought tears to my eyes. Am I old-fashioned? Maybe. Don’t hold it against me. Now, I know I am a novelist, an author. I wish my mom was alive to see this.
Right now, I am doing two things: I’m working on my new book, Hacked!, and I’m trying to get Fan Mail reviewed. I’m not much of a self-promoter. It’s challenging to reach out. However, I’m doing it anyway. I expect at least two reviews this summer. I hope they are good. So far, Fan Mail has four five-star reviews on Amazon. Two of them came from Europe. Wow!
I tamed the story a little
I have to confess that I revised Fan Mail about a month after releasing it. The original manuscript (and book) had more sexual content. It included Steve being spanked by Leslie (the main characters in the book). I love writing sexy scenes. A couple of the reviews were about that earlier version. After taking some time to consider the project, I realized that those scenes didn’t add anything to the story and would probably put off most readers. Call it a rookie error.
I was my own editor. I had two friends who gave me feedback on the manuscript. Both of them like some kinky stuff, so they didn’t flag my over-the-top writing. That’s a common problem of self-published authors. I am hoping to get more help. I need more beta readers. If you would like to read the manuscript of my next book and offer your comments, please email me. Just click the link to go to my mail form. All beta readers will get a hard copy of the book when published! Thank you.
A little over a year ago, I was furloughed from my job as a program manager. I had wanted to write fiction for a long time. After work, I just couldn’t manage to sit down and write. When I suddenly lost my job when COVID struck, I decided I needed to do something constructive. I decided to write. I’m one of those people who obsess once I decide to do something.
When I started Fan Mail, I have to admit that I didn’t know exactly where the story would lead me. I knew I wanted my heroine to be sexually empowered. I wanted her to take the lead and fulfill the dreams of her partner. That’s all I had when I started. Then, I sat down and started to write. I wrote the first three chapters over and over. Finally, it had the right feel.
One night I dreamt of my characters. I saw the story begin to unfold. It was a hot and fun dream. I woke up aroused and ready to write. The rest of the story almost wrote itself. Then, after the first 100 pages, I sent them to a friend who is an author. She sent back extensive notes. I sent her a cheerful thank-you note, but inside I wanted to cry. I watched TV the rest of the day. I didn’t dream that night.
The next day I went through her notes. They made a lot of sense. It took three days to go back and fix the story. It was much better. I was excited again and started writing new pages. Within a week, I finished the book. I spent over a month editing and rewriting. Finally, I decided to send it out into the world.
Fan Mail has a lot of sex in it. I love to write sex scenes! Wow, the pages just fly when I am writing about sex. When I reread and edited, at least half of them got cut. It was too much! In the first draft, I actually had Leslie spank Steve. It was fun to write but didn’t really advance the story. I also feel that it would be too kinky to add if I wanted a general audience.
After all, Fan Mail isn’t about kinky sex. It’s about a woman who discovers her feminine power and uses it for good. It’s also about the horrible sexist politics of show business. Mostly, I wanted it to be fun to read. I hope it is.