For today’s episode, I become the guest on my own podcast as Marco Arzate, a new writer who hasn’t published yet, asks me his questions on writing and publishing. We discuss things like character development, whether you can still query agents once you’ve self-published and vice versa (spoiler: you can!), how to find your tribe of like-minded writers, and many more!
To support Marco on his writing path, you can follow him on Twitter.
Listen to the Episode
Read the Transcript
[The Writing Sparrow theme]
Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow Podcast. I’m Sarina Langer. This podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.
Sarina: Welcome back, friends and Sparrows. Today is the 29th of March. This is Episode 29, which has lined up very well. Today’s episode is a little bit different, and I’m totally calm about that. Today, I’m talking to Marco Arzate or rather, he’ll be talking to me. Marco is a relatively new writer who hasn’t published yet, and if this applies to you too, my dear listener, then you know just how daunting this process can be, and just how many questions you might have. So, this is a new writer [00:01:00] question and answer thing. Welcome, Marco.
Marco: Happy to be here.
Sarina: Yeah, very excited about this. I’m sure you’ve got lots of very good questions that I’m sure I can answer, or you might make it public that I’m a fraud. [chuckles] We’ll see. This will be fun. [laughs]
Marco: No, it’ll be fun. I’m nervous too.
Sarina: Oh, you’re doing great. If this works really well, and if there are other people listening, who are also very new to this and also have lots of questions, maybe we could do this a regular thing.
Marco: Yeah, of course.
Sarina: Yeah, if you’re listening right now, and you would like to do this, let me know and maybe you can grill me on my own podcast in the future. That’ll be fun.
Marco: You never know, it’s a very tough task to work on a book, it’s just build the rough draft, and then the all the other drafts. Frankly, when you are new to it, [00:02:00] you don’t really know where to go, or who to ask. I think with the right community, which is on Twitter, an amazing community, I think it’s a little bit easier than it would be by myself.
Sarina: Absolutely. I agree. The writing community, in general, is so generous, I think, and so supportive and so welcoming. On Twitter, it’s really easy, I think, to connect and meet people, which is how we’ve met.
Marco: Exactly. I’m blown away by just everything that has gone on with Twitter, a lot of great ideas, a lot of great genres I blend together. It leads me to believe that I’m in the right place. I feel a little less nervous about the task of finishing my first book.
Sarina: That’s great to hear. I think many writers are maybe a little bit apprehensive about getting on social media, because it feels like they are [00:03:00] really entering the writing world at large. This is a really good example that it’s fine to just join us, maybe start small, maybe just start on Twitter, look both of us up, I’ll be linking to both of us in the show notes, just say hello and just join the community from there. We’re friendly. [giggles]
Marco: Of course. I know that when you’re new to Twitter in terms of the writing community, it’s very nerve wracking because you don’t know who you’ll meet. It could be gray, it could go awry, because you never know. But I can safely say that it’s been a great experience, it’s been very welcoming. It’s like, I remember tweeting a while back that come into the community is like being the new kid at school, and I’m wandering around, and I’m wondering, “Okay, who would I sit with?” and the community is, like, “You know what, new kid comes to with us.” It’s been a very great experience. If anything, I think it’s daunting, [00:04:00] because, frankly, so many good writers and it’s like I want to lower my inner circle, but it’s difficult to really see what happens with that, because I’m a very addictive type in terms of just wanting to be around people, wanting to digest stuff. But it’s been good overall. That’s how this came about.
Sarina: Yeah, exactly. I’m so pleased to hear that you found it such a nice experience so far.
Marco: Yeah, me too.
Sarina: It does make it so much easier when you have a nice community. A lot of people have their family, for example, and their friends who are supportive, but a lot of writers actually don’t have that support. For them, social media is the only way to really get that, well, supporthood, to know that they’re not alone and that are that there are people who do care about their writing.
Marco: Yeah. I wholeheartedly recommend [00:05:00] it. It’s made a world of difference. Last year, in a year that I really needed good news in my life, coming to this community was actually one of the highlights of the year.
Sarina: Yeah, last year was odd. I think you joined us at a really good time.
Marco: I agree. Everything just lined up, and then I’m looking at it and going, “You know what? What am I waiting for?” I’m not getting any younger. At the time, I was 31. The time is now, just go for it. Make mistakes, but enjoy the process, just discover what speaks to you about this craft of ours? Is it a clear process? What is it exactly? When you discover what you love, [00:06:00] it just allows you to allow all that to come in, because you’re finding this critique partner and this one as well, and they’re all telling you this, and this, and this, and you can take that advice and piece all together, and that’s what will help you get to where you’re at. Because we all have our own critiques but at times, it can be a case of maybe it contradicts, so just take what works for you, and what works for your overall book and go with it.
Sarina: Absolutely. There are so many different approaches to writing. The more people you ask, the more different kinds of opinions you’re going to get. Some people say that, “You mustn’t ever edit your book while you’re writing the first draft.” Other people will tell you that it’s fine. Some people will tell you that you have to plot the book, others will say that you have to pants the book. When we also get started with questions in a second, the one thing that I want everyone to remember, yourself and the listeners as well, [00:07:00] is that you can approach writing and you should approach writing however works for you, there is no-one-size-fits-all thing. My answers to your questions, whatever they will be, I’m excited to find out, they are genuinely things that work for me, and that may also work for you. I will try to generalize it a bit more so that I really don’t want to tell you that you have to do things in one way and nothing else will work. Yeah, exciting things. Shall we start?
Marco: Yeah, of course. When it comes character, that’s a really, really important thing but it’s also an aspect of how do you go about it. Do you yourself plot it to a tee, or do you just have some details, or do you just go about it? Let it be organic, 100%.
Sarina: Is this specifically on characters?
Sarina: Right. [00:08:00] Normally, when I write a draft, a lot of characters tend to pop up as I’m writing. Every now and again, you will think that maybe you have this nice idea for a side character. Then as you write, they might grow into the main character, which you didn’t predict, but it might happen. Likewise, when I have my main character to start with, I have a relatively good idea of who they are because I think when you really know everything about your main character, you know what makes them tick, you know what they like and what they don’t like, you know what they want, then you can’t really get stuck at any time when you’re writing. Because then instead of wondering, what should happen next in the plot, you can just ask yourself, “What would my character do?” So, I think it’s really important that you do know your main character as much as you can before you start writing, but that shouldn’t mean that you can’t get to know them more as you write. You might, for example, go in thinking that your main character is going to be really serious, and [00:09:00] not have one funny bone in his body. You might then discover that actually within the first few pages, you might make some really nice jokes. You might then realize that actually, maybe you’ve had the wrong idea about him, which is fine. Characters should develop as the book goes along. I hope that answered that.
Marco: Oh, it did. It’s really important to know your character, because especially if you write a first-person point of view book, like I’m doing, you have to know your character, how they describe things, and just how they will react to certain situations because if you don’t, it just becomes much more confusing, and we don’t want that.
Sarina: Yeah. When you’re writing in first person, you have the benefit of really being able to get into the head because it’s in a way the reader’s head, if that makes sense, because you’re reading it from this, “I did this” perspective because that’s just your narrator in [00:10:00] first person, so that opens you up to a lot of that, which is great. At the same time, I think writers can maybe overthink it a little bit and maybe almost approach it in an unnatural way, if that makes sense. For example, you asked me on Twitter how we might handle character description.
Sarina: Something that a lot of new writers immediately think is, “I know, I’m going to stand my character in front of the mirror, and have him describe himself that way, because he’s looking at himself.” When’s the last time you did that? I hate looking at myself in the mirror to that detail where I can tell you the angle of my nose, or roughly how far apart my eyes are, or how much my hairline may have receded. It’s just not something that people tend to do, unless you’re trying a new look, and you might have a look at yourself because of that, because you want to see how it works, and maybe you’re on a photo shoot, and they’ve done something really weird to you that you would never [00:11:00] normally do, but maybe you like it. Just normally in your everyday life, I don’t think most of us would just stand in front of the mirror and just really consider how we look. It’s just not something we do.
Marco: That’s what I did in my original intro, actually.
Sarina: Well, I did that with my very first book, the one we don’t talk about. [laughs] Yeah, it’s just something that many writers when they first start writing immediately flopped, because it seems like an easy way of describing a character.
Marco: What book? I already forgot it.
Sarina: Oh, no, you wouldn’t know it. It’s not something I’ve published.
Marco: Even better, really.
Marco: I’m really happy that I show someone that, I guess, cliche way of just [unintelligible [00:11:51] because frankly, I went back and I redid the whole intro. Frankly, it’s a lot more [unintelligible [00:11:59] [00:12:00]. Thank you for that too, because that helped me.
Sarina: Oh, I’m glad to hear that, you’re welcome. Especially with your first book, you will learn so much about the process and about what works for you, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that you’ll have a better idea of what you’re doing with your second or your third book, because ultimately, every book is different. Something that works for your first book may not work for the third book, for example, or when you start another series, you may end up with a completely different process. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try a few things, and just see what works for you because it probably will change over time. I don’t have the same process now that I did when I wrote my first book, even the first one that I’ve published. I’m now writing the seventh book that I published, and my whole process has changed so much, and it keeps changing. It’s a very fluid thing.
Marco: That’s really cool how we evolve as writers if we [00:13:00] look back at our previous work, and maybe it makes us cringe a little bit, but it’s a time capsule. It’s what we were way back when and just maybe you got good ideas that were there, and you brought it to the present, you never know.
Sarina: Yeah. I actually think that if you do look at older work that you’ve written, and it does make you cringe, I actually think that’s a good thing because it shows that you’ve learned something since then and you have evolved as a writer, and you have developed new skills. That’s a good thing.
Marco: Of course, and that’s the beauty of writing, it always evolves. We never quite know what it will become, but it’s exciting all the same. I like it that you talked about organic growth, in terms of a character, maybe start off minor, maybe they become a main character, maybe they die off, I don’t know. That’s how I am [00:14:00] about all of my work. Every single character, well, not all of the characters, but they have been characters that have become much more important as time went along and it happened organically. That’s actually really cool, because we can map certain details, maybe even all of it, but sometimes stuff just happens and it’s pretty cool, actually.
Sarina: It is. It’s really cool. That’s just talking about individual characters, but once you put them together, even more of that magic can happen because you might go in thinking that’s a character A and character B. They might be enemies and you might plan them to be the hero and the villain, but then you put them together in the book for the first time, and they might actually have this instant connection, and they might actually be instant friends, which some writers especially early on might be tempted to say, “No, you can’t be friends. That’s not what I had in mind. You need to be enemies.” Actually, I’d say run with it and just say what happens [00:15:00] because it could give you a lot of tension potentially and a lot of conflict, which is always good in books, but also maybe you just didn’t have the right villain yet or maybe you just didn’t have the right main character yet. It’s fine to keep trying and just let your characters take the reins to a degree.
Marco: Of course, and you never know what will work best until you actually try it. I’m the kind of person that I’m set in my ways a lot of times, but I have to realize that writing is not quite like that. You have to be flexible, you have to let things develop organically, maybe try things out differently, switch things up. Maybe character A and B were together, but then maybe try character A and C or maybe the main character is with someone else before they get with the main love interest, you never know. I say just try it out. Enjoy it. Enjoy, experiment, let it [00:16:00] be as good as it can be.
Sarina: Absolutely. I think – What was I going to say? You keep talking, I’ll come back to it. [chuckles]
Marco: Hey, no worries. I could talk for days about this creative process– It’s just great actually.
Sarina: Yeah, I think we can talk about character creation and story progression and all that for days. [laughs] [crosstalk]
Marco: I know I can actually. I don’t know about you, but I know I can. I just marvel at how things have changed since I started my WIP, which stands for working in progress for those who are wondering. I remember talking to this author, and she gave me this really cool idea because, spoiler alert, I guess, my book starts with the main character in a dream, and he doesn’t know why he’s there. He’s getting married, but he doesn’t know [00:17:00] to who. Everyone else knows, but he doesn’t. There’s this really creepy vibe about it. Then when he sees the bride, he’s thinking, “Who is that?” Before he can kiss the bride, he wakes up. That ties into when he meets the eventual love interest. He’s wondering, “Wait, she looks familiar, maybe? Did I see her somewhere?” I think that’s just great when you tie that into what you already did and then readers are thinking, “You know what, that’s actually really cool. I like the way they he or she connected together.”
Sarina: Yeah, it’s always really satisfying, I think, for the reader as well, when you can set something up early on and then later on in the story, things start to come together, especially if you can set something up in the first book and they can [00:18:00] then come together, maybe suddenly in the third book, and everything just comes together as one cohesive story across several books. So, it’s very satisfying to read and to write.
Marco: It really is. I think people appreciate that. I know I do.
Sarina: Oh, I definitely do.
Marco: It just makes sense. Of course, that is how it happens, well, of course it is. It’s just really cool how you can put up all that together, it’s like you have all these dots, how do you connect it? That’s when the wheels start turning. Maybe if I do this, Maybe if I do it like this, maybe I switch this out, and then it just becomes even better. That is just so freakin’ cool. Actually, I have a little bit of a– the author actually gave me another idea. When he [00:19:00] starts liking the love interest, he has another dream. It becomes more vivid, and I’m thinking– and I even have some dialogue towards it. It all connected just out of nowhere. Then, I went to my computer, I’m like, “I’ve got to write it down because that is pretty freakin’ awesome, actually.” It now makes even more sense. I’m just blown away.
Sarina: These dreams, they seem to be really important then to you character and to his development. Not necessarily something magical, but they seem to be scarily accurate to this main character’s life. Have you thought about where those dreams come from and to what extent he might be able to maybe control them?
Marco: Not yet. Well, that’s one of my weaknesses actually. See, the thing is, I [unintelligible [00:20:02] the service right, but I [00:20:00] don’t– Oh, sorry.
Sarina: You all right?
Marco: Yeah, I’m good. I knocked over my microphone because, of course I did. I’ll scratch the surface, do more than that, but I should dig deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper. The character knows that these dreams are important because he’s left wondering, “Who was that? I’ve never seen her in my life.” It’s a little creepy in a way, but he’s left wondering, “Is she going to ever come? What is this?” I think that’s actually a pretty accurate way of looking at dreams because sometimes when I do it, I’m thinking, “Why did I dream that?”
Marco: That’s just really weird. It’s not even close to reality. It’s all this insanity. Was it a random dream? Is it prophetic? What is it?
Sarina: Dreams are pretty cool.
Marco: They are pretty cool, [00:21:00] I agree. I think just having dreams, having the way I look at dreams go into the book, it makes it more personal because that’s what makes my stuff what it is because I know that in terms of what we write, it’s all been done before pretty much. So, the best way to make it special is make it your own. There’s only one you, there’s only one me, make it that.
Sarina: Absolutely. I think I’ve possibly already said that in another interview with someone else, I feel like I have. If not, I’m going to say it now because it’s important. Writers always think that, when new writers do that maybe they shouldn’t write this one thing, because the idea has already been done. That is true, but there is also this famous saying, and I feel bad because I forgot who said it. There was this famous saying that goes, “Yes, it’s been done before, but not by you.” That’s pretty much what you said.
Marco: Exactly. [00:22:00] Ask yourself this question, does this idea matter to you?
Marco: You say yes.
Sarina: I was just going to say that it’s your book. The one person who really needs to care about the story and everything is you because you need to write the whole thing. You need to love it enough to potentially put yourself through different rounds of edits and critique partner feedback, and you need to care about it enough to not be put off when someone sooner or later tells you that one thing in there that you really love about it doesn’t work, because that will probably happen sooner or later. I think if you didn’t love the idea enough to begin with, then that might be enough to put you off, but I think if you really care about it, then you’re more likely to take that feedback and work with it and transform your book into something even better.
Marco: Yeah, of course. I also was going to say [00:23:00] if the answer is yes, then go for it. I agree with what you said.
Sarina: That’s good to know.
Marco: Yeah, well, of course. That’s just the best thing about when you write, because when it matters to you, it’s everything, it’s your baby, it’s what you want it to be. It means a lot to you and it means everything to you. Just go for it. Don’t be off by, “Well, it’s been done before.” Yeah, well, everything has pretty much, so I guess, either write what has been done before or don’t write anything. What’s worse, I suppose, right?
Sarina: Yeah. Let’s not forget that it’s only a first draft. If you write it and you then think actually, maybe this needs a lot more work or maybe this doesn’t quite work for me, then that’s fine, because it’s just a first draft, you haven’t published anything yet. You can still make all the changes that you want, there is absolutely no commitment at that point. [00:24:00] You can still do as much as you want, so don’t even worry about it. Just write and get it out and see what happens.
Marco: Exactly. That’s a good thing you say that because frankly, one of the problems is that I expect perfection. Perfection of the rough draft, it ain’t going to happen. Let’s just be more realistic, just write, have fun with it, and just let it be what will be.
Sarina: Yeah, I think it’s already good that you’re already freeing yourself a little bit from that expectation of perfection because many writers do expect perfection, I think, but ultimately, it’s not a real thing. You’re not going to get it, definitely not in your first draft. By the time you eventually publish your book, you should obviously be pretty happy with it. Obviously, you should then think that it’s the best that you can make it, but if you look back on it even just one year later, chances are there are things that you would do differently. It’ll never work for [00:25:00] everyone anyway, so obviously do try your best to make it the best it can be, but sooner or later you need to let go of it. Perfection isn’t going to come, no matter what you do. Sorry, that sounds terrible, but perfection isn’t real, and the sooner we accept that, the better.
Marco: You’ve got to be honest. There are people that are listening, and maybe they’re wondering that same question, you never know.
Sarina: Yeah. Especially if it’s only your first book, and you haven’t published anything yet, like with you, don’t feel forced to publish anything at all if you just want to do the writing. A, writing is fantastic therapy for one. So, it’s totally fine to just write for the sake of writing, that is fine. You wouldn’t maybe start painting today and really enjoy it and you then wouldn’t also feel the pressure of having to eventually [00:26:00] have this in a gallery because that’s what other artists have done. I think with writing more than other art forms, maybe there seems to be this pressure that if you write a book, you need to publish it, or else you’ve wasted your time. That’s not the case. If you want to write for the sake of writing and for the joy and the therapy of writing, that is fine. You can totally just write and enjoy it. You do not need to publish it, if you don’t want to do that.
Marco: That’s a really good point because it’s not always just 0 to 60. There’s always an in between. That’s actually really good that you mentioned that a while back as well, because, frankly, I don’t know where this will go. I’m hoping to self-publish it, but we’ll see where that goes when I’m done with it. I’m pretty at the beginning, so it’s like I don’t have to know now, but I should research it more anyway. Because [00:27:00] frankly, it’s like will you dive into the pool that has no water in it? No, you will not. You have to look before you leap.
Sarina: That’s a very good comparison.
Marco: Exactly. Otherwise, well, that’s going to be really painful.
Sarina: Yeah, you may break an ankle or wrist or maybe both or worse. Definitely do your research.
Marco: Exactly. That’s one of the benefits to the writing community. They have wonderful insight as to what this is, this is this, this, this and that, and just things I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I’m very thankful for it.
Sarina: Yeah, I think the only thing to consider, especially with a community as large as the writing community, is that you don’t need to believe everything, especially because one person, as I said earlier, might tell you that, “You need to plot your book.” Then, the next person you ask may tell you that you need to pants your book, [00:28:00] which is to just make it up as you go basically. Both versions are fine, but if two people you respect equally tell you those things individually, then you might end up feeling really torn and you may not know what the right choice is. Generally, in writing, the only thing that matters is how it works for you. It needs to feel right when you do it. Or, maybe else keep looking and see if you can find another way of doing it that does feel right to you. The only exception maybe is that you need to get your book edited and that you need to get feedback on it. But even then, there is no one editor who’s right for every writer. My editor may not be great for you, for example.
Sarina: It’s certainly a journey. [chuckles]
Marco: It really is, but it’s an amazing journey.
Sarina: It’s really an amazing journey.
Marco: It’s great to see just what this means to certain people. Actually, to anyone really, because [00:29:00] they show photos of them with their own books and how much this means to them, and I’m like, “That’s amazing for you. I’m really happy for you.” One day that will be me, I 100% believe that, but until then just simply keep going, try new things. One thing about me that I know for sure is that I am a combination of details/organicness. I honestly [unintelligible [00:29:32] in terms of outline. Just simply write important stuff down, not everything, but write enough down to the point where I know what will happen, where this is going, and then let it happen organically, the balance.
Sarina: Yeah, writing an outline would also be a good way of seeing if the idea works for you at all. If you just may be writing 3000 words of outline and you realize [00:30:00] that actually you don’t really care about it, then at least you haven’t started a book.
Marco: Exactly. Just experiment. I actually had a few things that happened in my first chapter that were organic. I’m like, “That’s actually a really good touch.” You can’t always plan anything that’s good or bad. Enjoy them, enjoy the ride. Because this is my first book, there will never be another moment like this. Enjoy it, learn from it.
Sarina: You only get one first book. On the one hand, it’s going to be the hardest one, because you will have the most to learn. On the other hand, it’s probably also the most important one, and maybe also the most fun one, because there is still so much to try and there are so many things to figure out for it, which is really exciting. Daunting, but also really exciting. [00:31:00]
Marco: Yeah, I agree. That’s actually why I sat down and thought, “What would be the best first book idea that I can come up with?” I wanted it to be special, I wanted it to be as much as possible, as special as possible. That’s just what led me to my current WIP because, and I think that aspect of growing up, it’s the stuff that people can relate to. I think relatability is very important. It’s important to relate to characters in some way. Whether it’s their struggle, or whether it’s what they look like, or whether what the story is like, there has to be some sense of relatability there. Otherwise, it’s like, “Well, I can’t relate to it. Why am I reading this? I don’t know.”
Sarina: Yeah, that’s a good point. As you said, relatability is so important, and there are so many different ways in which you can make a character relatable. It might be their background, it might be where they’re from, it might be [00:32:00] what they’ve gone through as a child, it might be what kind of school they’ve gone to, it can be so many different things. The only thing your character should never be is someone who’s immediately good at everything and immediately universally loved, because I don’t think anyone can relate to that.
Marco: Oh, I know I can.
Sarina: No. I definitely can’t [crosstalk]
Marco: It’s all right. You’ve got to know yourself. I found this character to be very annoying, because frankly, I turn off, I tune out immediately. Like I said, “I can’t relate to you. You’re smarter, you’re everything.” It’s like, “Well, why am I rooting for you?” What do I like you? I don’t know.
Sarina: Yeah, and I think a character who’s already immediately great at everything, even things they haven’t done before and therefore shouldn’t immediately be perfect at, they’ve got nowhere left to go.
Marco: Exactly. [00:33:00] Boring.
Sarina: We don’t want that. Make them work for it.
Marco: Exactly. I think that’s really important. Pacing. As a writer, sometimes I think, “Go here, go here at this rate,” but slow it down, slow it down. Let it sink in, add more to the struggle. Let it sink in. That way when you do win, the reader is like, “That was well earned, and I’m happy I read it.”
Sarina: Yeah, I mean, some of the pacing will depend on your genre, but generally speaking, a character shouldn’t just run from plot point to plot point to plot point. There are some things that should happen in between as well, that helps you ultimately flesh out the story, so it’s not just one rush from one point to the next. There needs to be something happening in between that’s still important to the story, but that doesn’t just rush the reader along [00:34:00] like it can’t wait to the over.
Marco: Yeah, exactly. Plus, also, once again, relatability. How is that relatable? It’s like fix this, this, this, this. It doesn’t work that way. It takes time. It’s like, I can’t just build a car like this.
Sarina: You don’t want your book to be a sort of blink and it’s gone thing.
Sarina: Look, I’m bit worried that we’re completely forgetting about your questions, because I think you have four more.
Marco: To be honest, I actually had two more actually. I really want to ask above anything, because I think one of them was actually about organic growth and you already answered that. You actually did it without me asking actually.
Sarina: [laughs] I’m a mind reader. Didn’t you know, I’m psychic.
Marco: You are an X-Man clearly.
Marco: Let’s see. Do you ever do warm-up exercises? How do you warm for [00:35:00] your writing, if at all?
Sarina: Oh, I don’t actually.
Sarina: Yeah. I don’t know if it counts as a ritual, but I make a tea in the morning and then I write. A large part of that depends on whether I’m allowed to go into work or not. At the time we’re recording this was still in lockdown, so I’m not allowed to go anywhere and neither are any of us. My routine is very much I get up in the morning, I make myself a tea, I maybe quickly catch up on a few things on social media, I reply to you. Then, I set myself a timer and I write for a bit. But I don’t warm myself up in any way. When I do go into work, when I actually have to physically be in my library, I know that I don’t have an awful lot to write. So, I know I need to write in the morning or it’s not going to happen, and then I know I’m going to feel bad. I get up a little bit earlier, I still make my tea and then I set the time a little bit shorter than I would now, then I still write and then I go to work. That’s my ritual. It’s quite boring, but it’s very effective.
Marco: Hey, whatever works for you. I’m not going to knock it. What kind of tea do you like?
Sarina: Well, honestly, a bit of everything. I grew up with tea. When I was a child, we always had tea, that’s what my mom gave me. I always had some, whether it was an herbal tea, I always remember we had peppermint tea and we had chamomile tea. We always had those in the cupboard. We also normally had something fruity like apple and cinnamon or berry medley. I think we did have a box of black tea but to be honest, I have no idea why because my parents are coffee drinkers, they don’t drink tea normally and I can’t stand coffee but also, I would have been too young to have caffeine. I don’t know why we had that box. It was this grown-up tea that just wasn’t meant for me, so I just never had it. I never thought about it. Nowadays, [00:37:00] I do tend to wake up either with a nice breakfast tea or having an Earl Grey, and I need my tea strong, so I always leave the tea bag in if it’s a black tea.
Marco: You know what? I’m all for rituals because I’m very ritual based. I can’t say that if I don’t do it, it feels off, but I really prefer it. I’m all for you having a ritual, frankly, whatever works for you.
Sarina: I did have this plan a while ago. When I say a while ago, we’re talking some years, where I thought, I have this really cool shirt, which has a dreamcatcher on it. I thought that might be really cool to wear while I write. Then that way, when I sit down and I put the shirt on, it instantly tells my brain that it’s time to write, so it’ll help me focus and get in the zone better, and then I just never wore it. So, I can’t say that would have worked because I kept forgetting that I had it, but yeah.
Marco: I’m the same way, I forget it whole time. It’s [00:38:00] very annoying, but that’s why I write stuff down a lot. I have one final question actually, and it’s actually a pretty big one.
Sarina: Go ahead.
Marco: As an indie author, what are the pros and cons in your experience?
Sarina: Oh, that is a big question, you’re right. [chuckles] Well, I suppose it depends on what you want from the experience. For me, I like to be in control of pretty much everything. A lot of readers and maybe also authors who have made it, if you can call it that, and have a traditional publisher, they tend to assume that indie authors are only indie authors because we can’t get an agent, which I don’t know maybe true for some people, but for pretty much every indie author I know, myself included, it’s not the case. I know that I’m an indie author because I need that control. When you have an agent and a publisher, for example, and it comes time to [00:39:00] make the cover for example, for your book, then that’s pretty much completely out of your hands as the author. Whereas I really like the process of filling in the brief of my cover designer off letting him know what I’d like, what I don’t like and then some weeks later he sends me back the first design of that. He tends to do two mock versions, so I can then choose the one that I like more and then we discuss what we like about it and what would make a good cover.
I really like to be involved in pretty much every step, but when you have an agent for example and the publishing house, then you don’t have that. I read a blurb once, for example, for a very popular book, I won’t name it. The blurb basically gave me completely different expectations of what the book actually had. For me, that was very misleading. I know that the offer likely had absolutely nothing to do with a blurb, may even not like it themselves, but they wouldn’t have had any input in that. [00:40:00] Whereas I write my blurbs myself, I could maybe send them to my editor, and then if anything about it doesn’t work, she will tell me. But ultimately, it’s up to me and I think that’s what I like so much about the self-publishing path, is that everything is in my hands, and if it goes wrong, I have myself to blame. I can’t say, “Well, I wanted it differently, but so and so I decided that we should do it that way.”
For some people that may be more off-putting because it is more work, pretty much in every area of the process. If that appeals to you, then this may be the right path for you. There’s also still some stigma that surrounds indie authors, some of it may be justified with some writers. Again, I won’t name anyone but it’s because it’s so easy to self-publish, I have had some books that I downloaded, and you could tell that it was basically a first draft that this person had [00:41:00] uploaded, which is, I think, where a lot of that stigma comes from. Please don’t do that. Please put your book through all the bells and whistles before you publish it.
Likewise, there are some really fantastic indie authors out there. Some of them have done so incredibly, well, maybe even better than some traditionally published authors. Likewise, having an agent and publisher does not guarantee success. I have read some traditionally published books, which had errors in them, that would have ended– indie authors carries it in a heartbeat. I’m not talking things like a missed comma here and there. I’m talking things like mispresenting a mental health issue, which for me, is a really big no-no. But because it’s this big-name author people, I’m quite happy to overlook it and you barely see any mention of that in their review. But if an indie author did it, oh, oh, oh, that career [00:42:00] would be over, [unintelligible [00:42:00] that. You would need a whole new identity to publish anything again and have chance.
There are certainly some complications there. I really don’t want to just bad mouth having an agent or anything, because it can be absolutely fantastic if that is the way for you. They help you with a lot of the legal stuff, which can be fantastic. There are a lot of readers also still who will read entirely only traditionally published books. There is certainly a lot of, let’s call it prestige, that comes with having an agent and it does feel good to say, I imagine. I don’t know, because I’ve never had one. For me, I like the control, and I think I need the control. There are certainly pros and cons to both sides.
Marco: Yeah, of course. For me, I don’t think about it, because like what you said before, once it’s out there, that say[?], I can’t be like, “Oh, [00:43:00] well, indie for my first book, then just had to go for traditional.” Well, you can’t do that, it’s already indie, so it’s like, next time.
Sarina: Well, you say that, but well, actually, quite a few authors have done a bit of both.
Sarina: Yeah. There are quite a few authors who have maybe started off as an indie author, and they still have the series out independently, but then maybe for the next series, they’ve been picked up by a publisher.
Sarina: I say that like the publisher approach then, which is very unlikely to. I don’t want to raise anyone’s expectations about what’s acceptable. There are some authors who have done both, and it’s possible and it’s actually relatively common. Likewise, there are some writers who may have published their first book or their 10th book or whatever, independently, but then later found for presentation for the same book, and then probably also got a new cover and a new blurb, and maybe also change some other parts because [00:44:00] it ultimately also then needs to fit the publishing house, you then no longer work alone, which can be grateful for the support and the expertise and all that. Those are things that when you self-publish, you need to find yourself, which can be difficult. Especially also because I think there are a lot of fraudsters out there, who will tell you that they can totally edit your 100,000-word manuscript for 50 quid, and they cannot. I may be biased here because I’m also an editor, but you cannot edit 100,000-word document in a week of developmental edit and everything and only ask for 50 quid. If that doesn’t take several months and a lot more money than that, then you should know that you’re probably onto someone who’s not going to do a very good job. You get what you pay for.
Marco: Exactly. I ask because, frankly, as someone that’s new to this, there’s a big difference between writing and writing in terms of [00:45:00] wanting to get published because that’s a whole different ballgame. Frankly, I’ll happily admit that I don’t know all that much, but that’s one reason why I’m happy to be in the community because frankly, I have had a lot of wonderful help, yours included. In terms of being indie, there’s the aspect of control, simply– I’m the same way, I’m a control freak. I want to control.
Sarina: It’s a good [crosstalk] to be in. [laughs]
Marco: It really is because it’s like, like I said, I don’t want it to go badly, and then I’m like, “Oh, well, it went bad because this was your idea.” No, I want it to be because it was my stupid idea. I don’t want to blame anybody for my failures, That’s not right. I consider my work to be my baby, I don’t trust it with just anybody. I want to control. [00:46:00] I want to raise it and nurture it my way, 100% my way. I just can’t give it up, so that’s really attractive to me.
Sarina: I think that’s really important that you said that, because I think it’s quite tempting. Say, if you are hoping to get an agent, for example, I think it’s really tempting to hop on the first offer that you get, if you are lucky to get one. If anything at all feels off about the offer, if there’s something in there that you’re not 100% happy with, and the agent or publisher isn’t willing to budge on it, don’t go with it. One, there’s this one agent who’s already interested in your work, there’s somebody else as well. Ultimately, it’s your book and if they are not happy to cooperate with you, then maybe it’s just not the right relationship. Keep looking. It needs to be the right kind of agent for you, and it needs to be the right publisher for you.
Same as when you self-publish and you find your own editor eventually, it still needs to be the right editor for you. [00:47:00] That comes down to so much more than money because you also need to be able to get along, you need to be able to agree. If your editor tells you, for example, that your whole book may be better off in third person and you may need to rewrite the whole thing, because right now, it’s a first person, it’s a big job but if your editor makes good points for it and you can see that, you may. Hopefully, you then have the kind of relationship where you can discuss things like that. It’s always a really big decision. Don’t just go with the first person who seems interested. By all means do your research, see how well you get on. If any of it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
Marco: I agree 100%. It’s all about how important is this to you. It’s like this man writing. What comes after, what comes before, it’s like, “Oh, I wrote this book means a lot to me. I took a year to write it.” “Oh, my first agent? Well, let’s go.” [00:48:00] It’s like, no. Like I said, why don’t you just wait it out. Let’s see who comes along. Let’s see how well it fits because frankly, the best choice may be choice E. Who knows?
Sarina: Yeah, exactly. You asked earlier about self-publishing some books and maybe then traditionally publishing some others. There is no guarantee that when you do get a publisher, that they will represent you for the rest of your days. You sign a contract basically with them, and that contract may be specifically for that book, or it may be for that series. But once you have published that series with them, they may not be interested in your future ideas. You can then still self-publish your next book. You are then bound with a contract with that book according to the terms of the contract, but your next book, which may have nothing to do with what you signed there, that’s then entirely yours again, if you can find a different publisher too. You don’t always have to stick with the [00:49:00] same one if for some reason, it doesn’t work out anymore.
Marco: Yeah. That’s really important to consider, because it’s not just signed and done. You got to think about it. It’s like look before you leap, and that mistake can really cost you. I guess the term is horror stories, because, frankly, things just didn’t work out the way they planned. That’s just really, really unfortunate. It’s always important to do your due diligence, because if it doesn’t work out, at least you know that you put the time, you put the effort, it meant a lot to you to do the research.
Sarina: Just because it didn’t work out the first time or the third time, doesn’t mean it can’t work out the next time. Just learn from the experience and try again.
Marco: Yeah. This is just a really fun craft. I say just keep going, and maybe it’s a case of your [00:50:00] first book, it was good, but it wasn’t great because you were still learning. Then, your second book is even better, and then you get better and better. Then, you find some of the apex at book 10 or whatever. Don’t be discouraged, just have fun, because this is one of the best mediums in the world. I will describe it like this. Our books, we as writers, we’re the kings and queens of our universe, of our world. We can do whatever we want pretty much. Just follow the rules and just do whatever you want. Maybe the protagonist is an alien, maybe the love interest is a human, whatever the case is. Just experiment, have a good time, just know that there are options out there so many actually, so many that I can’t even name. [00:51:00] It’s just going around and looking at all these wonderful ideas and different genres, and just knowing how passionate our readers are, it’s an amazing thing. I describe it like this, whenever I write, I’m home. No matter if I’m having a bad day, or if I’m in pain, or if I’m left wondering what’s happening in my life, I don’t know. But when I write, I’m good. It all melts away. If something means that much to you, don’t give it up. [crosstalk]
Sarina: I think that super positive note of infinite writing potential is the perfect note to end our interview on, if you don’t have any more questions.
Marco: Honestly, I ended on the perfect question, because, as listeners, pros and cons are very important.
Sarina: I think so. There’s a lot to consider when you decide whether you want to be [00:52:00] self-published, or traditionally published, or maybe a mixture of both. I’m hoping to do an episode on the pros and cons at some point in the future. Hopefully, we’ll get even more information up there for that.
Marco: I hope so too.
Sarina: Great. Thank you very much, and I think that’s gone all right. [chuckles]
Marco: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Sarina: No worries. Yeah, thank you so much for stopping by and for asking me so many of your questions on writing. I’m sure there’ll be many more, which we can also discuss. If you, as the listener, would also like to do this at some point and grill me on my own podcast about writing or publishing, just say the word and we can schedule something. Thank you so much, Marco, for coming on and making me the guest today.
Marco: Hey, no problem. Happy to do it.
Sarina: Thank you so much. Bye-bye.
Marco: Take care.
Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe [00:53:00] button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @Sarina_Langer, at Instagram and Facebook @SarinaLangerWriter, and of course, on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.
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