This is all Jenn Brozek’s fault. This whole “become-a-writer-in-my-40s-extended-mid-life-crisis” thing can be laid directly at her feet, all because she was kind enough to talk to me about the joys and challenges of being a writer during 2009 GenCon. Since then, she’s delivered one of my first rejection notices, (for her webzine Edge of Propinquity), a boatload of advice, and most recently, some much needed ego boosting when the bridesmaids got left at the alter again.
I figured it was greedy for me to keep her all to myself, so I asked her to share her wisdom as an author, editor, and publisher. Here’s what she had to say:
You worked as an editor for a number of professional publication houses like DAW and Apex Publications while working as an author. Does wearing multiple hats make either job more difficult? Does it provide any additional insight that makes either job easier?
Editing is a completely different animal than writing for me. Though, one influences the other. I don’t believe doing both jobs makes either job more difficult. Instead, I think being able to both edit someone else’s work with an objective eye leads to remembering what ticked me off as an editor and eliminating that quirk from my writing. At the same time, being able to write gives me a skill set to understand what another author might be going for if it isn’t clear. Editing enhances writing which enhances editing.
You also work freelance for a number of Role Playing Game companies. What is that like? How did you get started?
Writing and editing in someone else’s sandbox is both easier and harder than working on your own original work. With tie-in writing, the heavy lifting of the universe building and rules is already done for you. The hard part is remembering the established details and matching consistency / tone while writing something that enhances and expands the established game world.
I got into writing for games by reviewing games first. I also wrote and sold original fiction at the same time. So, by the time a friend of mine became and editor for a game company, he already knew I could work to deadline and word count… and that I was a giant gamer geek who loved games.
We first met at a convention (2009 GenCon), how important are things like conventions and conferences to writers today?
I think that getting out and meeting authors, editors, and publishers face to face is important. It helps get you contacts in the industry who can help you improve your writing, who can pass on tips involving open calls, and can tell you, straight up, what they are looking for. It also allows you to give back to those who will come after you.
You bear the title “Wordslinger and Optimist!”. How important is optimism for a new author? Any advice to maintain that optimism?
I joke that, to work in the publishing business, you need to be an optimist or a masochist and that I’ve chosen to be an optimist. I say this because writing is a difficult, lonely job that is filled with rejection. Everyone gets rejected. It’s just part of the business. You have to be confident and optimistic enough to push through the pain of that.
My advice to stay optimistic is to keep writing and to love what you write. If you don’t love it, if you wouldn’t miss it if you suddenly couldn’t write anymore, maybe writing isn’t a career for you. Also, be around other creatives who understand your creative drive. Artists of all stripes tend to bolster each other and feed on each other’s enthusiasm.
What are the common mistakes you see authors make when submitting their work?
Mostly, not following the guidelines and believing that everything they produce is gold. Also, not understanding that everything you send out is going to be read by someone who is not in your head and doesn’t know you. That means you need a professional cover email, your contact information on the manuscript, and the title. They need to step outside themselves and look at what they are submitting from the point of view of a stranger.
Can you tell us about Apocalypse Ink Productions
Apocalypse Ink Productions is a small publishing company that I run with my husband and a couple of hired minions. We produce dark speculative fiction (urban fantasy / horror) and non-fiction books about writing in the internet age. The company is just about 1.5 years old and we have five books out now.
Find out more about Jenn’s life as a wordslinger and optimist at http://www.jenniferbrozek.com