Today is day 6 of the Fellowship of Fantasy Writers Blog Tour, and I’m excited to be featuring a guest post from J Lenni Dorner.
J Lenni Dorner began publishing under pseudonyms at age eight, and won several awards before turning eighteen. Education includes the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Excellence in Creative Writing semi finals and Penn State University’s Honors and Scholars program. While embracing the ancient tribal traditions, J Lenni Dorner discovered a story originated by The Grandfathers. J is happily married and living in Pennsylvania (USA) on the original lands of the Lenni Lenape people. When not reading or writing, J enjoys video games (such as The Sims and Civilization), funny cat videos, finding new drawings of dragons on Pinterest, and watching movies. Look for a short story titled “EGOT and the Pond King” by J Lenni Dorner in the anthology “Wrong!” (Southern Star Publications, December 2014).
Connect with J Lenni
My most recent publication is the short story titled “EGOT and the Pond King” in the anthology “Wrong!” (Southern Star Publications, December 2014). I was inspired by two different writing prompts. The first was a requirement to enter the contest- the phrase “I have a list and a map. What could possibly go wrong?” had to appear. The second prompt was a bit of humor about names and American entertainment awards- it lends to a joke inside the story. (EGOT is an acronym for “Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony.” A distinction officially held by twelve people.)
Here’s an excerpt:
I also spent my NaNoWriMo November working a fantasy book entitled “The Dagger in the Darkrise.” I was inspired over a decade ago by an image of a woman with a sword. The story is finally coming together properly after all this time. I’m not sure it would have made it before, as the cast is diverse (though sometimes that isn’t as heavy a factor in the fantasy genre). Timing is a big factor in the publishing industry.
Here is a guest post by J Lenni Dorner called High School Career Day
Welcome to career day. My, a lot of fine people have shown up to talk you into considering their career paths. Well, I’m J Lenni Dorner, and I’m going to try to talk you out of mine.
Crazy, right? No, I don’t hate my job. In fact, I love what I do for a living. There is absolutely nothing in the world that I would rather do than write fiction. In fact, right now, I wish I were at my desk, fingers stroking the keys faster than the letters can appear on the screen, creating a work of fiction. But it’s too late for me, as I’m already addicted. And no, I’m not trying to decrease the competition. That’s a myth, because good writers end up addicting people to the written word, creating more readers, and thus giving all other writers a potential new sale. It’s in my best interest to hunt down the next great writer and get a book cranked out from that person. Anyone who can get people who don’t normally read for fun to pick up a book is a phenomenon. Keep in mind that writers face worse odds than mega jackpot lotteries.
So let me say to you that if you can be something else, do it. Firefighter, brain surgeon, or grocery store bagger – if you can do any such job, and do it well, pursue it instead. If you’re even considering a career besides writing fiction, take it. If you have another way to make money, even if it’s just buying a lottery ticket every week, I suggest you go with it.
If, on the other hand, you’re angry at this advice, and now more determined than ever to be a writer, I may as well give you some advice. First off, never lose that fire. It will be the only warmth you’re likely to get on most days. There will be cold editing, frosty rejection, and ice storms of critics. Unless you write several books that crack the top five of the New York Times bestseller list, expect that there will be people who don’t take your career seriously. Writing a great book, a literary masterpiece, is not the same as writing a bestselling book. It has become extraordinarily rare in these modern times to accomplish both. You must decide what success will mean to you, and then find a realistic way to achieve it.
Those who aim to make this a career will need to sell. Always remember that selling well demands an understanding that being a writer is not only about writing. Actual writing is only a quarter of the job for a career fiction writer. Half the job is marketing. Learn to sell. Get a job selling things people don’t want, and work on convincing them that they do. Used car sales professionals have a better shot at becoming bestselling authors than librarians. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s reality. If you suffer from a fear of rejection, get a job as a telemarketer. People love to reject telemarketers. Your skin will thicken at that job. Agents, editors, and publishers are almost never as creative in rejections as people who have answered their phone during dinner. Be forewarned of this tidbit- never bother to sell to a literary agent. Almost all agents hate sales pitches woven into query letters, and will instantly drop the letter into the reject pile.
Increase your odds of avoiding rejection by having a strong social media presence. Do you know why publishing houses are willing to take a chance on a book written by a celebrity, even if that book is the sloppiest pile of mindless drivel ever committed to a page? It’s because it is a low risk. The loyal fans will buy the book simply because the celebrity is attached to it. Make yourself as famous online as you can. Consider that ten percent of your Twitter followers will read your book. Translate that into sales. If you can sell 8,000 copies in a month, publishing houses will factor that in. If you still are rejected, self-publish. Prove you can sell 8,000 copies in a month. That will impress the literary gatekeepers. It’s a very high aim, but block out the voices of those who say it’s impossible. Go read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. The most valuable lesson is to think in terms of how you can accomplish something, instead of why failure is inevitable. Everyone who hasn’t done it will tell you that it can’t be done. Visit the history section of the library. Most of the people and events recorded were the result of something that couldn’t be done being done.
The other quarter of the job of a writer is research, editing, accounting, and whatever else you don’t get someone else to do for you. Research is vital. The fastest way to lose an audience, be discredited, and have an angry online mob on your hands is to fail at research. In the movie “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion,” the girls decide to tell people they invented Post-It notes. They assume that no one will know who came up with them, so it’ll be fine. Obviously it doesn’t work. Any time you’re writing something and assuming that no one out there will know the facts- trust me, someone will. The one person in seven billion who is an expert in the field will happen to read your work, and will make you look like an idiot. Sure, there’s no such thing as bad press, but there is such thing as losing your credibility and becoming a laughingstock. So do your research.
Learn as much as you can about everything, because it might save you researching a topic later, and it might inspire you. Go to college and take every 101 class possible, even if you just audit them. Attend every free guest lecture available. Make friends with someone from every major, and stay in touch. Don’t think that writing in a certain genre, such as fantasy, will save you from research. I’ve exchanged dozens of emails with an astronomer and a physics professor to figure out the logistic possibilities of a fictional planet. It’s all theory, and no one can prove any of it is or isn’t possible, but I researched to gain understanding of how it could be theoretically possible. Why did I bother? I did it so that I would write with authority.
I’ll close out with a frequently asked question. “How do I know when I’m writer?” No one can answer that but you. It’s worth repeating, so I’ll say it again. No one can answer that question but you. If you define being a writer by being published, go tweet something. There, now you’ve published. If you feel you aren’t a writer until there are well defined copyright laws protecting your precious written words, print the tweet out and mail it to yourself in a sealed, stamped envelope. Now it’s copyrighted, as long as you only open that in the presence of an officer of the court. Still not happy? If you define it as winning contests, go enter every one you come across. If you just want to hold a book filled with your words to feel like a writer, there are hundreds of indie press options. Or will you require having a literary agent and publishing with a bigger house? Perhaps only the big five will do. For some, the need comes with hitting a mark on a certain seller list, or just selling a certain number of copies, or meeting a sales mark in a set time period. Others feel they need to have their book turned into a movie. Even that isn’t enough for everyone, because some will only take the title if both the book and the movie earn fame, awards, and hundreds of millions of dollars.
The truth is still the same- you are a writer when you claim the title. If you introduce yourself as a writer, you’re a writer. When you write, you’re a writer. Never let someone argue with you about it, because they don’t know and they certainly do not make the rules. There isn’t a rule. Unlike other professions, where the job title comes with graduation, hiring, or changing a name to have the letters “Dr” in front, being a writer comes from a place deep within you. It’s a feeling, it’s a certainty, and it’s a confident proclamation. So if you’ve made up your mind that this is the career path, that nothing else will ever do, I say to you welcome, because to me, you are now a writer too. I’m sorry and congratulations.