Sometimes We Fail

Full admission here: I really struggled with the topic for this article. I considered writing on other parts of the craft but came to the conclusion that, if my musings help get anyone else out of a writing funk then this effort will be worth it. In the scope of this short article, I hope to share with you that even if we mess up sometimes we’re still writers, still creators.

Several months ago, I published a dud. It was a story that I had thought about long and hard for a very long time, having been convinced that I could do the idea of a werewolf romance justice. Because my back list consists of historical romances, which I’m moving away from in the distant future, it seemed like a historical paranormal romance would be a good challenge to tackle. So I researched werewolf lore in the Victorian era and connected to my love and knowledge of such stories that I’ve read in the past. The result was a novella of an arranged romance between a werewolf and his unsuspecting bride. However, the book was not well received.

It could be said that I hardly have an audience at this early point in my writing career. I figured the majority of readers that came across this title (now removed from my publishing catalog because failure) would not be my regular readers. Historical paranormal romance, having fantastical and horror elements, is very different from my typical western brides and 1940’s romance stories. So when the one stars came on Goodreads and Amazon, it made me realize what a huge mistake I’d made.

Writing is about taking chances.

Yeah. It is. I consider my werewolf romance a failure because pretty much everyone who read the book hated it. My deepest fears as a creator came to life through the disapproval in the reviews of those readers, and a deep part of me kind of agreed. Who was I to think that I could just write whatever the heck I wanted? Why did I think that branching out to a completely different genre I’d never tried to write in before would be a good idea? Because, first and foremost, I’m adventurous at heart. Although I see my mistake in having written the book, I took a huge chance and failed. C’est la vie, as the French say.

We, as writers, owe it to the truest parts of our creative spirit to write the crazy ideas even if they don’t succeed. We’ll never know what can happen unless we try. Now I know that, forever and always, werewolf romances are off limits for me. It was the only idea I had for such a tale and the negative response the book received has made recoil in ever trying it again. But at least I tried and can move on with other projects.

Learning from our mistakes.

We can’t succeed at everything. The scariest part of this experience for me was that I had placed the book on pre-order and it had gotten a fair amount of interest. When the book was published, however, the negative reviews rolled in rather quickly. Possibly the biggest mistake I made in the whole matter was placing the book on pre-order to begin with (won’t be doing that again). The manuscript had been rushed to meet a deadline and although it had been well edited, the story itself received fair criticism from readers. I agreed with many of the things that were said, even if my feelings were hurt. But I learned that my heroine was not a good fit for the scope of the story and in fact, her behavior throughout the course of the book had not allowed readers to connect with her or the hero either. These are things I’ve taken to heart in order to improve on my next project.

Sometimes we don’t feel it, and that’s okay.

I went into a creative depression. There were other things happening in my life that added onto the pain but, for the most part, I felt like hell. Why should I continue to write if I suck anyway? I couldn’t bear to see that book next to my other ones on my website and Amazon Author page. So, after a few months, I took it down. I felt defeated, sad, and empty. So I didn’t write the entire summer even though I made numerous attempts to start another project. Finally, I gave up and just decided that the time would come that I would write again.

I chose to spend the summer doing everything but writing. And that’s okay. I read books, enjoyed time with my family, and started volunteering at our local Humane Society. It ended up being just the break I needed from authoring and publishing, clearing my mind and helping me value my life despite my failure of a book.

Authors are humans, too.

We have feelings. Yes. And when readers don’t like our work it hurts. We have every right to claim that pain and turn it around for the better of our craft and persons.

Failure is a natural part of the process.

Of life in general. But especially writing. What matters is that we are able to pick ourselves up and try again (cue Aaliyah). Failure is what allows us to recognize our weaknesses and appreciate our strengths. I’ve learned from this experience that my historical romances, set here on Earth and the real world, are a much better fit for the writer that I am and wish to become. Although I do have a fantasy romance planned for the near future, it’s a type of story I have experience writing and did so for many years before I started publishing the historical romances. It’s a type of story I understand well, unlike the paranormal romance.

I’m glad to say that I’ve regained my sense of self and love of creative storytelling, and have started writing again in small spurts. I value my individual way of writing and know what fits me/doesn’t fit me so much better than before this experience. It has been a valuable part of my author journey.

Further Discussion

What are your experiences with failure as a writer? What did those experiences teach you?

How have you improved as a writer and creator as a result of perceived failure?

Rose Andrews

Rose Andrews is a historical and fantasy romance author who writes about marriage, mountains, and adventure. She enjoys crafting stories about arranged marriages, marriages of convenience, and mail-order-brides in times of old and imagined worlds. Her sweetly toned, faith-inspired stories are about sassy heroines who wed good-humored heroes and live happily ever after.

She resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and family, reading historical and fantasy romance novels to her heart's delight. Connecting with readers is her favorite part of publishing fiction.
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Brianna Sharp
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Brianna Sharp

Thank you

AlexK2009
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AlexK2009
Chessie2

Chessie2 submitted a new blog post:

Sometimes We Fail
by Rose Andrews

[​IMG]

Full admission here: I really struggled with the topic for this article. I considered writing on other parts of the craft but came to the conclusion that, if my musings help get anyone else out of a writing funk then this effort will be worth it. In the scope of this short article, I hope to share with you that even if we mess up sometimes we’re still writers, still creators.

Several months ago, I published a dud. It was a story that I had thought about long and hard for a very long time, having been convinced that I could do the idea of a werewolf romance justice. Because my back list consists of historical romances, which I’m moving away from in the distant future, it seemed like a historical paranormal romance would be a good challenge to tackle. So I researched werewolf lore in the Victorian era and connected to my love and knowledge of such stories that I’ve read in the past. The result was a novella of an arranged romance between a werewolf and his unsuspecting bride. However, the book was not well received.

It could be said that I hardly have an audience at this early point in my writing career. I figured the majority of readers that came across this title (now removed from my publishing catalog because failure) would not be my regular readers. Historical paranormal romance, having fantastical and horror elements, is very different from my typical western brides and 1940’s…
Continue reading the Original Blog Post.

You tried something new, you failed, you don't know why. The idea seems good. Maybe the arranged marriage aspect?
Try again with a slightly different idea or tweak the characters. Also werewolves are two a penny in fantasy, or at least not uncommon. Try a female werewolf and swap things round?

Nirak
Member
Nirak

Thank you for sharing this with us. I just wanted to say that I think it’s awesome that you tried something new. Sometimes we stick to what we think we’re best at and never explore – and isn’t that what being a writer is all about? Sometimes when you explore, the path you take doesn’t lead anywhere. But at least you tried!

Ned Marcus
Member
Ned Marcus

Thanks for this. It makes me feel less alone when I read of how other people face difficulties. That I’m not the only one. As you say, failure is part of the process. Failing forward is how some people describe this, and it can lead to better and more creative work later.

The Dark One
Guest
The Dark One

A fail is just a step along the road to success. This is something I wrote in 2011. The publishing world has changed a lot since then but I stand by the article…

The Importance of Being Rejected

KJF
Member
KJF

Thanks for sharing this. I’m in the process of stepping into another genre and I have all the same fears. There are all the fears of wondering if any story is any good, and then wondering if you can really do another genre well.

Terry
Guest
Terry

Thanks for sharing your experience Rose. It’s what every writer fears and hopes to avoid. I admire your courage and take a lot of inspiration from everything you said. It’s too easy to get caught up in doing rather than being. Losing ourselves in all the minutia of being an author too often robs us of the joy of writing, especially writing from the heart.

I actually loved the idea of a werewolf romance set in the Victorian era. Could it be the book was targeted toward the wrong audience? I’ve heard lots of horror stories from authors who’ve gotten terrible reviews when they didn’t slot their books into the most optimal categories. It could be that there’s an audience out there that would love that book. Just a thought, in case you ever feel like dusting that manuscript off one day down the road.

Miles Lacey
Member
Miles Lacey

My first (self) published novel was a total flop. It was primarily to avoid that from happening to me again that I came to this site. The story sucked, the research was not flawless, the plot was … awful, the characters more wooden than Thunderbird puppets and so on and so forth. It was a textbook case of what not to do. Even now I hear that voice screaming "Oh, for the love of all that is good in literature, please don't write fiction again!"

This article about failure is probably the best, and most refreshing, article I've read in a while because it addresses an issue that writers are often reluctant to talk about: our failures. My failures in fiction writing are legion. In fact, I doubt I have ever written fiction that was even remotely good but I am hoping that if I work at it, seek advice from people who write for a living and work at it like any other trade I will write something non-political that people do want to read.

Maker of Things Not Kings
Member
Maker of Things Not Kings

Loved this article! Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm so glad to hear you are writing again. Don't ever let the negatives take your love of the craft or your self-belief in your abilities away from you.

Heliotrope

I am now in a place where I do it to just "fart around". Fart around with ideas. Fart around with characters. Fart around with settings. It works for me.

This is similar to the only creative advice I feel qualified to give someone. I am fortunate to have made my living, for the last ten-plus years, as a maker-of-things. When people ask how I got there, as if I might possess a secret, I tell them it's that I sat down every single day and made stuff. That was my whole plan from the very beginning. Keep making, improving my skills, and I'd get there. That induces the total blank stare nearly every time. But it's true. they can't believe it's not about mastering social media, better SEO or having a slick website.

Just — make — stuff. Every day. It's the only way to get better and sustain anything.

But in the future, I'm going to add the phrase: Just fart around. 🙂

It's such great advice.

I realize that I allot myself one day a week of my writing time to do just that. Make maps, research, write the crazy idea that will never work, invent a magic system, draw characters, create models of buildings, invent coins or amulets — whatever. Fart around.

It makes everything else I might be working on seem to flow better when I return to it.

I'm glad you're writing again as well.

The world needs every good writer and creative storyteller it can get.

Jennifer Baruta
Member
Jennifer Baruta

Oh man, this is a wonderful article. Thank you so much for writing it and actually having the balls to publish it.

We don’t often want to admit the reality. We don’t want to admit that sometimes a story just doesn’t pull together, or we lose the way, or we think we nail it but end up being the only ones who thinks so, lol. I’ve taken a few (a lot longer than a summer!) months off due to a similar experience… and I totally agree… Taking time away HAS made me a lot stronger.

I spent the time reading, hanging out with my family, doing stuff I love… and trying to find the love for writing again. We can still be writers without writing every day. We all have our own journey and sometimes it doesn’t seem to make any sense, until it does.

I read a quote recently by Kurt Vonnegut that changed my life. “We are on this planet to fart around, and don’t let anyone tell you different.” I went through a phase where my entire identity was fixed on writing, that even the slightest criticism threw me into a depression. I am now in a place where I do it to just “fart around”. Fart around with ideas. Fart around with characters. Fart around with settings. It works for me. I’m soooooooo glad you worked through your crappy tough time and found what worked for you!

Antonio del Drago
Admin
Antonio del Drago

Thank you for being so forthright in sharing what was certainly a painful moment.

We all have experienced failure in various aspects of our life. When you fail at something that is central to your identity, it can be devastating.

Although failure never feels good, such moments can be learning experiences. If nothing else, they can teach us humility. On a foundation of humility, something new and beautiful can be built.

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