OPEN INK PERSPECTIVES

So…what now? by Jenn Burke

In early 2014, I got the news I had been waiting to hear my whole life: I was going to be published. My first novel had been accepted by Entangled Publishing for their Covet imprint. Then, in July 2014, I got even better news: the proposal for a five-book male/male sci-fi romance series my BFF Kelly Jensen and I had submitted to Carina Press was accepted too!

To say I was over the moon would be an understatement.

Her Sexy Sentinel was published in January 2015. Chaos Station, the first book in the Chaos Station series, was published in March 2015. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of writing and editing the rest of the series, with promo in between. (So. Much. Promo.) For the past two years, my non-evil-day-job hours have revolved around writing, books, and all the frustrations that come with publishing (and let me tell you, no matter who you publish with, I think frustrations are just a given).

The last book in the Chaos Station series, Phase Shift, came out in May 2016. It was a relief. Eighteen months to write and edit five books was ambitious and difficult, but we’d done it. The series was finally over, and yes, I’d miss our guys but I was ready for something new. I was feeling good about the future. Kelly and I started a couple of projects together, then decided to focus on solo works instead because we both had so many other ideas and characters tugging at us.

Anyone who writes knows that a writer’s brain is always brimming with book ideas. I had so many directions I could go in—would I write the story about the aging rock star who finds out he has a teenage son? Would I write about my grumpy ex-Army guy who finds out he’s more than human? Or maybe I’d tackle that LGBT guest ranch in Alberta idea… I was all over the place. When I had the opportunity to submit a proposal for a new book and series, solo this time, I jumped at it.

And it got rejected. As did my next proposal for a different project.

You hear all the advice for new writers:

“Rejections are a rite of passage.”

“You need a thick skin.”

“Dust yourself off and submit again.”

What they don’t tell you is that rejections you get after you manage to publish something hurt just as much. Maybe more. I’d felt pretty confident in my abilities as a writer after scoring two contracts, but the rejections made me start doubting everything. Like…maybe it was Kelly’s writing chops that carried us through our series. Maybe my solo stuff was crap. Maybe my earlier self-confidence had been completely misplaced and mistaken.

Maybe all I’d ever publish were those six books. Not to look down my nose at that accomplishment—because it is an accomplishment to publish anything—but it wasn’t what I wanted.

I ended up taking the summer off writing. Part of it was family stuff I needed to focus on, but most of it was me needing to rediscover that place inside my head and heart where the stories live. Recharging, I guess, and refusing to let me pressure myself to produce something to publish.

That’s something else they don’t really tell you about getting published—you then have this drive to do it again. This pressure you put on yourself to produce, to publish, to stay in the market’s eye. That’s…well, that’s just the reality of the writing business, and it’s not a bad thing, really.

Still, before I made the conscious decision to take a break, I was hard on myself. So much of this writing gig is a mental game you play with yourself. I tried to adhere to the “dust yourself off” advice and keep plugging away at my stuff, all the while battling those voices in my head reminding me that I’d failed, and other voices that pointed out that other writers were getting new contracts and why can’t you just finish this stupid book, Jenn?. Unsurprisingly, the words didn’t want to come—which, of course, didn’t help with the whole “I suck” mentality I had going on.

So here we are, at the end of October. I’d like to be able to say I have a contract in hand or a book that’s almost done, but I don’t. Getting back into a good headspace for writing, then transferring that into good habits (schedule, plan, etc.), took up a big chunk of September…as did Life.

But I’m moving forward. I have a new knowledge of myself as a writer—both of my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve managed to rediscover the fun of writing, and I’ve stopped berating myself for not writing 3000-plus words every day. I can easily manage about 1300; that works for me. I might not have a book done at the end of October as I’d originally wanted, but that’s okay. The main thing is that it’ll still get done. I’ll still be a writer. And I’ll still be moving forward.

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Jenn’s always been drawn to weird and wonderful stories, particularly those juxtaposed with our normal, boring world. Her love of the written word prompted her to get a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Ottawa, and she’s spent the years since working in corporate and web communications—and dreaming up weird and wonderful stories of her own. A self-confessed geek, Jenn loves spending time in the worlds of video games, surfing her favorite websites, reading all the romance novels she can get her hands on, and accumulating an impressive collection of nerdy t-shirts. She currently lives outside of Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband, two kids, and her dogs.

Jenn is the author of HER SEXY SENTINEL, a paranormal romance from Entangled Publishing, and the co-author of the critically acclaimed Chaos Station series from Carina Press.

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