Cathryn Grant talks about going Indie

Today, Cathryn Grant will be talking to us about how going Indie with her debut novel, The Demise of the Soccer Moms, has “changed her life.” Last week, Andre K. Baby spoke about his debut thriller, and next week Teresa Frohock will speak about her upcoming debut novel.

Cathryn Grant’s short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Her short story, “I Was Young Once” received an honorable mention from Joyce Carol Oates in the 2007 Zoetrope All-story Short Fiction contest.

In her first Suburban Noir novel, THE DEMISE OF THE SOCCER MOMS, a provocative single mother permanently alters the lives of four Silicon Valley soccer moms. It’s available now as an eBook and in paperback at Amazon.com and Smashwords. Her second novel, BURIED BY DEBT, will be released in November 2011.

Welcome Cathryn!

49 Days as an Indie Author – how my life has changed.

The title of this post is probably a bit melodramatic and if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a fiction writer, it’s to avoid melodrama. Well, there’s also show-don’t-tell, move the story forward, give your characters back story, interview your characters, read your manuscript aloud, use meaningful dialog, don’t open with the weather unless you’re brilliant, have a firm grasp of POV, ensure you have internal and external conflict, use telling details, linger in the scene. And there are three hundred things missing from that list.

Fiction is a mystical blend of craft elements from which emerges a story that resonates with readers. It feels like magic. It takes a lot of practice, as every writer knows.

Last week I was interviewed on a few blogs, and in my interview with Christi Craig, she asked me how long it took me to write The Demise of the Soccer Moms. I was too embarrassed to tell her, and just said it took a “very long time”. In retrospect, I think I was too coy because as was pointed out in the comments, everyone defines a “very long time” differently.

So how long did it take? I worked on that novel for six years.

In fairness to my part slacker, part stressed-out, part angst-ridden, perfectionist self, I wrote the first draft of two other novels during that time and quite a few short stories. But still, SIX years?

The reason it took so long is simple. I’d written several novels before this one that weren’t ready for prime time. As I started The Demise of the Soccer Moms, I still had a lot to learn (I still do, but the learning curve was steeper). I participated in a writers’ workshop, took classes, read books on craft, did exercises, and as I received feedback, I had to keep rewriting. Then, my ability improved, so of course I wasn’t satisfied and had to go back again. Some would have abandoned the project as yet another “practice” novel, but I loved that story and couldn’t let it go. So yes, six years.

At this point, I’ve learned enough about the craft and found my rhythm and a work style that I think will allow me to publish a novel every 11-12 months. So that six years of effort was worth every minute.

During those six years, the publishing industry went through enormous changes, leading me to decide indie was the best route for me. (I won’t talk about that since I’ve covered it in detail here and here.)

In the comments section of Christi’s blog, one writer said she wanted to focus just on writing rather than publishing and I responded that something strange had happened since I self published – I have more time to write. Another commenter wanted to know how that worked! It’s not that I have more hours in the day, and self-publishing does take a lot of hours, but I think what’s changed is my energy level and my focus.

I’ve always been an early morning writer and a slug in the evenings, but now I have a new-found energy after dinner. I think it comes from having my work out there, and from knowing I’m the only one responsible for my writing career. This energy lasts through the evening, allowing me to be productive during that time.

Even better, I know that I have to keep to a schedule in writing future novels and that’s helped me overcome most (not all) self-sabotage. Although I had a morning schedule for years, I can’t begin to describe how many ways I found to fritter away that time. Yes, step by step I did write stories and novels, but part of that six years was spent wasting precious weekend hours ranting to my husband about my novel, surfing the web during my writing time, doing projects for my day job that did not have to be done at 4:30 in the morning, moaning in my journal, more web surfing, staring at the wall, and checking email.

In addition to the energy that comes from taking control of my writing, there’s a freedom I haven’t felt for years. I never saw this before I self-published, although I should have. There was a subtle, undetected tendency to write for publishers, agents, critics, and the market. Now, I’m writing for readers. If you’d asked me before, I would have said emphatically that I was writing for readers, but there was that underlying awareness of working toward publication that I think restrained my voice.

Now, the words pour out of me with more freedom. I tell my stories with less concern for what others think. Of course it still matters whether readers will enjoy them. And I don’t mean to imply that I’m taking less care with all those details of craft and style. I’m just not trying so hard and that gives incredible energy and feels, strangely, like more time.

My life has changed in a very significant way. In another interview last week, Linda Cassidy Lewis asked when I started calling myself a writer. I said, when I started committing time every day to my writing. But now, I don’t just call myself a writer, I feel like a writer.

Thank you, Cathryn for your wonderful post!

We wish you continued success!! We look forward to future novels!

You can learn more about Cathryn, The Demise of the Soccer Moms, and her fiction at her website, Suburban Noir.

Cathryn loves talking about writing and her experiences, so please leave a comment for her!

Cathryn’s flash fiction has been published at EveryDayFiction.com and at her website under Flash Fiction for your cocktail hour.

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34 thoughts on “Cathryn Grant talks about going Indie

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    I don’t think I mentioned in my comment the other day, I love your new site, it looks so clean and light!

    Thanks for inviting me and thanks for your your intro and the pointers to my work. 🙂

  2. You’ve intrigued me, Cathryn. 😉 I’m curious to see how my writer’s life changes.

    I know you’ve talked about writing for readers before, and I said I understood, but now I’m wondering if I really do. I am actually writing for readers? I’m no longer writing for agents or editors, but could I be writing for writers?

    I want that freedom you have! 🙂

    Thanks for hosting Cathryn, Jennifer.

    • It’s interesting that you mention writing for writers, Linda. That’s slipped in for me as well, especially in critique groups, but even sometimes with beta readers. It’s such a subtle thing. Maybe if we write for ourselves … the cliched “write the book you want to read”, it helps keep us centered.

    • Linda, reading the post I’ve wondered the same thing myself. I’ve always thought I write for me. The number one reader, but I’ve paying more attention now as I write. See what I’m doing by rote without even being aware.

      • We all block ourselves at times. It’s figuring why that can be the challenge. Cathryn sounds like you were writing through writer’s block! lol.
        I will read that book that links meditation/mindulness to writing. I wonder at what point you read that one, CAthryn, in your path?
        (sorry, the title escapes me at the moment)

      • Hi Jennifer, I can’t remember when I read that book. I compulsively write the year I read something on the inside cover but I can’t find the book! I think it was around 2008 because my writing eacher had talked about “lingering” in scenes if they weren’t working and this book echoed that idea.

        It’s called Writing Begins with the Breath. I love it because it focuses on slowing down, making sure you don’t rush through scenes (which is what leads me to telling, or to not revealing character enough or other hiccups).

        To build on what my teacher said, if you’re unhappy with a scene, slow down and write more. Write excess “boring” stuff about every detail and that will lead you to something fresh. (caveat: this works very well for me because I’m an overwriter-cutter rather than a minimalist-add-inner)

      • Hi Cathryn, sorry this got past me somehow. Thanks for giving me the title again! I will order it.
        I really like that advice: slow down and write some more.
        funny you mention overwriter vs cutter, ’cause my next post is about that. lol

  3. I read this post last night before I went to bed, and I knew I wanted to comment, but I couldn’t really figure out how to say what I wanted to say. It was niggling at the back of my mind all night. This morning, it dawned on me:

    Confidence and closure.

    I think there’s something miraculously freeing about having your work out there for the world to see. That’s the closure part. But when you start hearing compliments and seeing a few sales and realizing that hey, you *can* do this and you *aren’t* a terrible writer, it gives confidence. Plus, there’s just the satisfaction of knowing you can finish something–see it all the way through to the end. That’s a huge contributor to confidence.

    Great post, Cathryn. Made me think all night, obviously. And I’ve noticed a similar thing since I released “Ravenmarked,” but I hadn’t really put it into words till now. Thanks for making me think!

    Amy

  4. So I could have saved Jennifer 800+ words and said “confidence & closure” 😉 But you’re right.

    I recognized it twice and thought, what’s going on? The first was starting my novella and the story was just flying out of my fingers so fast I could hardly keep up (and I type 90 words a minute). The second time was working on back story for Buried By Debt, same thing, I felt like one character telling her story was bursting with secrets. Maybe part of it is that the “characters speaking” phase was so long ago for Demise I’d forgotten.

    • I’m glad you didn’t try to save me 800 words, CAthryn!! This was a great post!!

      I love that feeling you describe, Cathryn, when you can hardly keep up with the words coming out.

      Amy, I read your post on JC’s blog last week (or 2 ago), and you exude a ton of confidence about your work. Both you and Cathryn are very inspiring!

      I do not think I’ll ever become used to people reading my work. For me, once something is published I almost forget it’s out there for others to read and experience. And when someone does comment to me about I’m always shocked. I hope that feeling never passes…
      If I write with that in mind, I can’t write. I freeze completly. If I think about agents, editors, publishers, forget it, I wouldn’t write a word. I think it’s wonderful that both of you went the way you did, and you write with ease (not ease of work, but ease of mind).

  5. vanyieck says:

    I really appreciate this article. I’m one of the many who have a first draft of a novel and a series of stories that are slowly being turned into podcasts. It’s amazing how the publishing world has changed and I’m eager to join the revolution. You’re willingness to plunge into indie publishing is inspiring!

    • I’ve been wondering, Vanyieck, if the same Indie phenomenon is going on in Canada. I believe you’re from the Ottowa region, and I was wondering what you’ve noticed. Are more and more Canadian writers going Indie as well? By-passing the middle men and taking control on their own?

      I have a lot of thinking to do for my own upcoming work…

      • vanyieck says:

        I know a few authors who’ve self-published their novels. Indie publishing is more acceptable than it once was. Finding willing editors and graphic designers isn’t the problem. The real challenge they all face is marketing. But from what I’ve seen and heard from those who’ve been published the traditional way, marketing is no less a struggle.

        I’ve been looking at cross media marketing, specifically podcasts, to help advance my writing. I’ve written thirteen Rembrandt Parables so far, but I’ve only recorded 3 as a podcast. Once they’re completed, I hope to be part of the podcast culture- perhaps even purchase radio time somewhere. That’s a wild vision, but I figure it’s better to dream big.

        (I’m actually from the Hamilton area.)

      • Yes, definitly, dream big!! And it’s not really a dream, but an aspiration!! Good for you!

        Yes, I’m seeing the same thing with marketing. It’s the one aspect about writing that I’m working at being enthusiastic about. All that energy…ugh. I’d rather use it for something else. But, to succeed there is no atlernative.

        Good luck, Vanyieck, and good writing!

  6. Great article! It makes me feel better about my own time table. I’ve been writing for about two years now, and I know I’m nowhere close to being ready for publishing. There’s so much to learn before I can feel like I’m really putting my best out there. I’m looking forward to reading a new Cathryn Grant novel every year!

    • Thanks, Shelli. 🙂
      And yes, there’s a lot to learn and the more we do it, the more all the pieces start to fit together. I can see that on my next novel, it’s going much more smoothly (that’s relative, not to imply it’s “smooth” going!)

      • I don’t mind the wait, Cathryn, as long as it’s a good read. I have read a few books by favorite authors, and while reading have tought, ‘oh, this one was on a tight deadline’.
        On the writer’s end, though I know that getting things out there and keeping on a role is a must!

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