A mass of writhing arms and desperate fingers all outstretched and grasping for lifeforce clamors around me. The lights are blinding and all we can hear is the incessant droning of some pacifying music in the distance. I hear orders being spouted left and right from the void. It is impossibly hot in the crowd. Every surging movement of the horde ripples across me and I feel like I am trapped within the hull of some ancient ship churning on the darkest seas. Black liquid pours through tubes on the walls across from us and, though I know its foul taste well, I feel drawn to it in my despair. The world around me is fading. The black fluid is the only substance that might sustain me…
No, that’s not an excerpt from my upcoming dystopian novel. I’m just at Starbucks.
Starbucks is one of those places that reminds me why I might have picked the wrong hobby. There are few things on Earth that I enjoy more than sitting peacefully—usually with my fiancée—enjoying a cup of coffee and just talking for hours on end. When I’m trying to write, I usually seek the sweet, silent refuge of my local public library, but just for today I ventured over to Starbucks to enjoy a different atmosphere. Here, everything is loud and tense—a loudness and tenseness ironically soundtracked by the soothing serenade of some laid back indie group I’ve never heard of. People keep giving me scathing looks because here I am sitting alone in the madness just enjoying a cup of coffee by myself. Most of these folks who look so annoyed haven’t even purchased anything; they’re just staring at me, laptops in hand, waiting to see if I’ll finally move so that they can have the outlet next to me. Oh, I’m sorry! Am I in your office??? Excuse me for drinking coffee…at a Starbucks.
And, before you say anything, yes I realize that I’m obviously writing this on my own laptop and, yes, I’m still at Starbucks. I’m not that clueless. I actually did give up my original spot so that someone could have the outlet. I’m now typing in one of the cushy chairs by myself. The point is I BOUGHT COFFEE. Also, it would appear that everyone’s just looking for an outlet. That’s kind of profound, right?
But since I’m at Starbucks and since I’m quite annoyed by the vibe here, I thought I’d weigh in on a few of my indie author annoyances and see what others have to say. This list could (and probably should) go on and on and on. Tell me your annoyances in the comments! I’ll bet I share most of them
1. Facebook – Facebook has probably cost me more time as a writer than any other force on the planet. Why? Because every single author my age does this: Sit down, prepare to write, pause, check Facebook just one last time, keep checking Facebook, Facebook stalk, play random Facebook game, make note to write tomorrow, go to work. Okay, I’m not that bad. But you know why Shakespeare was so damn prolific? Because he didn’t have to worry about Facebook! As writers, we have to learn to resist that temptation to check our email or Facebook “one last time” before we start writing. I say, reverse your state of mind. “Today, I think I’ll write just one more page before I check Facebook”.
2. Form Rejections – We all receive rejection letters. If you aren’t enduring rejection, you’re doing something wrong. Rejection is not failure; it is only a divot on the road to success. That might sound pretty contrived but I actually just thought of it and I stand by my statement. Believe me, I get the need for rejection letters from agents. I even understand the need for form rejection letters. No one is more sympathetic to the amount of work that falls into agencies’ laps every day than I am.
It’s the lack of accountability and bulls*** that irritates me in form rejection letters. I only want to hear one thing from an agent who doesn’t want my book and doesn’t have time to tell me why: “No.” I’ll be annoyed by that, too, believe me, but I’ll understand and respect the agent’s terseness. It’s the following statements that I hate hearing from agencies: “It’s just not a good fit for us.” “It’s not right for us at this time.” “Our rejection should not be taken as an indictment of your work or ability.” That last one always gets me. Oh, I’m sorry for interpreting your rejection as rejection. And what is “not a good fit for us” supposed to mean? “We aren’t currently accepting good writing”? I would rather receive a form rejection telling me my book is “absolutely terrible”. At least that would tell me to regroup and start from scratch instead of leaving me to tread water because an agency could not afford to take accountability for its own dismissal of my book. Finally, that brings us to “not a good fit for us at this time”, which implies to me that an agency is basically telling me “We could conceive of a future or parallel universe where perhaps your work would be considered publishable. We advise you to seek out a time machine or the device from Sliders.” I’ll get right on that, agents.
3. This Chick’s Voice at Starbucks: This wasn’t originally going to be on this list but in the twenty minutes now that I’ve been writing this entry, her voice has climbed to #3. This barista’s voice is somewhere between Bill Cosby, Gollum, and Rosanne, I s*** you not. It would almost be impressive if it weren’t so damn grating. And for some reason she keeps shouting German and giggling. Thank you, Starbucks, for hiring only America’s finest. On the bright side, sitting at Starbucks actually reminds me of a funny thing a friend of mine said a few months ago. I told her one of my friends was studying to become a “barrister”. My friend pauses for a second and looks me square in the eye before saying, “She’s studying to work at Starbucks?” (rimshot)
4. Writer’s Block – It had to be on the list somewhere, right? I did a whole entry on WB a few weeks ago so I’m not going to dwell on it all over again. One thing is certain: There is nothing more annoying than being in the middle of penning a great novel and suddenly not knowing what happens next. When you have two really exciting scenes, but you don’t know how to connect them, your instinct might be to just throw up a bridge and hope for the best. If you’re like me, though, doing this is usually what brings your narrative to a screeching halt because the bridge is built on a solid foundation of boring. Never settle for a rickety wooden bridge when your mind is capable of The Golden Gate Bridge. Sometimes all you need is patience, but the experience itself can be quite annoying for sure.
5. Forgetting to Write Down a Great Idea – I think this is the twentieth time I’ve mentioned on this blog that I get most of my really good ideas just as I’m laying down to sleep, which is terrible for sleep, but great for productivity. A few years ago, when I was just embarking on my first attempt at writing a novel, I used to just let those ideas sit until morning. Usually, I would remember the really great ideas and forget some of the smaller detail stuff at about 65% success. But let’s just say I forgot to write down five great ideas in my lifetime. Well, that’s FIVE great ideas that I’ll never get to see blossom. That could be FIVE opportunities that I missed—FIVE books I failed to publish. Nobody likes to linger on the one that got away, but the best way to keep those ideas from falling into that oblivion where you keep “that one guy’s name from high school”, “the place with that awesome cheeseburger”, and “the name of that one movie…you know which one I’m talking about…it had the guy doing the thing,” is to WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING. Here, I’ll get you a pen. You should probably write that down.
6. Cardigans – Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.
7. Other Indie Authors – Oh, don’t get indignant. We’re supposed to be laughing WITH each other. There is no question that this article would not be complete without us. If you’re following me on Twitter, you’ve probably been annoyed by the like 180 comments that my Tweet Bot posts every day. Trust me, I wouldn’t be insulted if you told me that. I’m annoyed that I have to do that to you folks, but it’s the only way I know to consistently promote this website and my books and make money. I’m 26 years old and I have bills to pay. I know for a fact that I annoy some people. It can also be annoying for some of us to receive constant questions from other writers regarding fairly mundane things like “how do I format an e-book?” or “what’s the best way to get published?” There are HUNDREDS of books and websites on both of these EXTREMELY COMPLICATED issues and, as for the second one, I pretty much devote a whole freaking website to it so WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME DIRECTLY??? I love aspiring writers and I love sharing battle stories and lessons, but I do get annoyed by people who act like they expect me to do their homework for them. Fortunately, 98% of you don’t meet that description. Why? Because 75% of you are awesome (!!!)…and the other 23% of you are spambots trying to sell me hair products.
Sean Quote: “Landing a literary agent is not about catching the biggest fish; it’s about making sure your paddle is big enough to knock out whatever you happen to reel in.”