If you like sci-fi, you’ll be familiar with J. Scott Coatsworth, the author. If you like buying books and supporting indie authors, you may have heard of Scott in connection with Queeromance Ink, a site where you can find your next favourite book boyfriend and where authors can showcase their work. And if you’re a writer, you may know that Scott is one of the organisers of the annual Queer Sci-Fi Flash Fiction contest, which you can enter here.
So, all in all, Scott is a busy man – but today he’s my guest on the blog, and I’m looking forward to following along as he talks about Writing Pitfalls.
Jackie asked me to contribute an article to my blog, and I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out what I wanted to talk about. Then today it hit me.
As a newbie writer, we all run into difficulties, and many times they are enough to stop us from writing. That’s a shame, because for most writers, putting pen to paper (or cursor to screen) is what makes us happy, what keeps us sane.
So I thought I would share some of the pitfalls I’ve learned to navigate and how I get past them, in the hope that they might help other writers.
The Muddle in the Middle:
This hits me every time I reach the middle of a story – my careful planning goes out the window, and suddenly my story is flying off in five different directions or stalling like a ’75 Pinto. The first time it happened, I thought I was never going to finish the story. That my writing career was over before it even got started. And then, guess what? I put my head down and powered through it, and that book won a Rainbow Award because my first draft didn’t need to be perfect. There was time to fix everything that was wrong with the book before publication, and in the end there was a lot less wrong with it than I had thought when I was in the weeds. So stick it out. Don’t get stuck in endless circles of revision. And when you cross the finish line, it will feel amazing!
The Amazing Imposter
Every writer I’ve talked to has felt this at one point or another. Some of us feel it nearly constantly. It’s when you feel like you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. Maybe you had a successful story or two. You have no idea how you did it, and soon everyone else is gonna figure out that you’re a no talent hack who pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes, and you’re gonna go down in shame. When I feel like this, I sit back and take a deep breath. I remind myself how many people love my books, and that I have felt exactly this way before and got past it. In time, I actually learned to look at Imposter Syndrome as a good thing. If I ever get too cocky about my writing, I’ll stop trying to get better. Feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing is one of the things that makes me strive to up my game and improve my craft.
The Post Release Let-Down
It happens every time. My new book release date arrives, and I am flying. It’s finally here, and the reviews start coming out, and it’s all wonderful. Then the day after arrives. The book doesn’t chart as high as I’d hoped on Amazon or Amazon, for some strange reason, decides to display really weird categories. Some reviews or blog posts don’t show up that I was expecting. Out of all the reviews, one says something negative, and of course I obsess over it to the neglect of all the others. I start wondering if the book will sell enough copies to convince the publisher to take my next one. I start feeling like an imposter (see above). Of the three, this one’s the hardest, because it follows such a high. I’m not bipolar but in these moments I imagine that I can feel what it might be like. In the end, it’s writing that saves me – jumping into the next story and letting go of my hopes and fears and expectations for the last one behind.
Being a writer isn’t an easy thing. It’s a road fraught with self doubt and small royalty checks and occasional moments of stunning beauty and love. To paraphrase Jan Richardson in Circle of Grace – thanks to Rory ni Coilean for sending this to me – if you take this path:
I cannot promise this road will free you from danger, from fear, from hunger or thirst, from the scorching of sun or the fall of the night.
But I can tell you that on this path there will be help. I can tell you that on this way there will be rest.
I can tell you that you will know the strange graces that come to our aid only on a road such as this, that fly to meet us bearing comfort and strength, that come alongside us for no other cause than to lean themselves toward our ear and with their curious insistence whisper our name:
Thank you Scott! I can identify with all of these, but the post-release let down most of all. Coming on top of being scared silly when the book comes out and the high of the first few hours, that one bites hardest. As Scott points out, it’s something that can make you feel that giving up writing is a good thing. But of course, it never is. We always head back to the keyword to play with the worlds and characters we have in our heads. Scott does know what he’s talking about, of course, since he’s just got a brand-new sci-fi book out.
Sometimes the world needs saving twice.
In the sequel to the Rainbow-Award-winning Skythane, Xander and Jameson thought they’d fulfilled their destiny when they brought the worlds of Oberon and Titania back together, but their short-lived moment of triumph is over.
Reunification has thrown the world into chaos. A great storm ravaged Xander’s kingdom of Gaelan, leaving the winged skythane people struggling to survive. Their old enemy, Obercorp, is biding its time, waiting to strike. And to the north, a dangerous new adversary gathers strength, while an unexpected ally awaits them.
In the midst of it all, Xander’s ex Alix returns, and Xander and Jameson discover that their love for each other may have been drug-induced.
Are they truly destined for each other, or is what they feel concocted? And can they face an even greater challenge when their world needs them most?
About J Scott Coatsworth
Scott lives between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.
He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.
He runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own reality.
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More from J. Scott Coatsworth
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